It is sometimes safer for children to be on the streets of Geraldton than in homes where their parents or others use narcotics such as ice, a community summit has been told.
Assistant Federal Health Minister Fiona Nash told 200 people at the ice summit in Geraldton law intervention was not the only answer to beating the ice addiction.
“We cannot arrest our way out of the problem, ” she said.
She will include suggestions and comments made at the summit in a report for Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who will take the issue before the Council of Australian Governments later this year.
Some 28 people — including support service workers, nurses, doctors, medical group staff, lawyers, school representatives and some who declared themselves addicts or former addicts — spoke about the extent of the ice problem in Geraldton.
The two-hour summit was hosted by Member for Durack Melissa Price.
Opening the summit, Senator Nash said she came from central New South Wales where, in common with other regional areas including Geraldton, there had been a rapid escalation in the use of ice as organised crime became more involved in its distribution.
“Law intervention is not the only answer to this, ” she said.
Among the suggestions at the summit was a multi-media “ice scare campaign”, along the lines of previous anti-tobacco and anti-alcohol advertising campaigns.
A mother said the campaign should reach children very early, in homes as well as in schools, with parents being taught how it should be presented.
“I’m working really hard to scare the crap out of my kids not to touch it, ” she said.
“I’m the lioness of my kids.”
A school chaplain said she was also very concerned about the impact of ice on children living with extended families.
“With the extent of smoking methamphetamine and use of ice in these families, children can often be safer on the streets than at home, ” she said.
A regional health worker said ice addiction could lead to a complete breakdown in the Geraldton community.
“It’s generational now, ” she said.
“You can’t just deal with it by throwing a few pamphlets around.”
Another regional health worker said the summit made clear the need for local agencies addressing issues arising from ice addiction to work closer together.
“Obviously we are all operating seperately and we need to get those services together, ” he said.
A speaker who works in a regional drugs service echoed the comment of Senator Nash that Australia could not “arrest itself” out of the ice epide- mic.
“It’s a medical problem, not a criminal problem, ” he said.
“You take one dealer off the street, you’re going to have 10 more on the streets later the same day.”
With the extent of smoking methamphetamine and use of ice in these families, children can often be safer on the streets than at home