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Festive Fun Brings A Little Magic

Thursday, 18 December 2014

While many of us escape our regular routines for the comfort of family and friends over Christmas, others are escaping domestic violence, life on the streets, or the grip of an alcohol or other drug problem. We spoke to three Perth community services about how they celebrate the festive season with residents.

Christmas decorations and tree at Cyrenian House Therapeutic Community
Cyrenian House Therapeutic Community gets festive

Cyrenian House Therapeutic Community

During a recent intake assessment, Shonna Grant learnt that a new resident at the Cyrenian House Therapeutic Community didn't think he would survive another Christmas if not in treatment.

"He hoped he'd be here for Christmas," says Shonna, who manages Cyrenian House's residential alcohol and other drug services.

New residents, and residents for whom it will not be safe to leave the Therapeutic Community, remain at the centre over Christmas, while many senior residents will spend Christmas with family elsewhere. Family members are also welcome to come in to the Therapeutic Community at Christmas.

"Staff, former residents and family members join residents on Christmas Day to celebrate and to enjoy lunch," says Shonna. "When families come they'll bring a dish so there's a variety of foods, it's multicultural."

Christmas can be a challenging time for many people who experience problems related to alcohol and drug use.

"Often family members don't understand that their loved one can't drink and remain in our program," says Shonna. "We offer to write a letter for residents to give to family members that explains their treatment and what it means for them at Christmas time."

Residents are also encouraged to consider how Christmas and the New Year may impact on their treatment.

"We ask residents to think about how they can stay safe during the festive season, now and in the future," says Shonna.

The Therapeutic Community celebrates Christmas in many ways and makes sure that no one misses out on a present, including children, adults who have no one else, and for the children of adult residents.

"We provide a Christmas Hamper to families living at the Saranna Women's and Children's Program and we take the children to check out the Christmas lights," says Shonna.

While Christmas can be a challenge for many people, Shonna says that some residents remember their best Christmases as the ones they shared at the Therapeutic Community.

St Bartholomew's House
St Bartholomew's House Aged Care Christmas Party

St Bartholomew's House staff and residents will celebrate the festive season with a pre-Christmas barbecue at Lime Street in East Perth. The barbecue will involve 148 residents, including people in crisis and transitional accommodation, aged care, and independent living services.

"We've held Christmas lunches in the metro Perth area for our Mental Health Support Services clients," says Manager Community Engagement at St Bartholomew's House Laura Yau. "We've also hosted a 'flash mob' style carol singing event for our aged care residents and a family and children Christmas Party for our Barts Plus and Housing Services residents."

 Orana House

"At least two of the six families currently living at Orana House won't have anywhere safe to go for Christmas," says Orana House Assistant Manager Regina Collier. "We cook a Christmas lunch, give presents, and sit down with families to eat."

The women and children at Orana House are escaping domestic and family violence.

"People do stay out with families but some people have no one to go to - there always is every Christmas," says Regina. "We try and keep it very positive, try to start some new traditions that they can follow on with later."

Orana House also welcomes back clients who have been with the service during the year for a pre-Christmas Party.

People feel the loss of relationships and family more acutely during the festive season.

"Holiday times do bring out the losses people have experienced, people do grieve at this time," says Regina. "We try to bring a little bit of magic back to a bad time in their lives."

"We have fun for the kids, wear silly t-shirts, enjoy a meal together, sing Christmas carols and make it the best we can make it."

Christmas Lunch in the Park

If you live in Perth, you're not alone this Christmas - Mission Australia welcomes all members of the community to its annual Christmas Lunch in the Park (CLIP 2014) on Thursday 25 December (Christmas Day). For more information, visit: www.christmaslunchinthepark.com.au

Do You Need Support Over The Festive Season?

If you're experiencing difficulties over the festive season and need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. ;The Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) will be open to take calls over the festive season 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call ADIS on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024.

Celebrating 30 Years as the Independent Voice of the WA Alcohol and other Drug Sector

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

In the early 1980s not-for-profit alcohol and other drug services looked very different. Driven by passionate people, often desperate to make a difference in the lives of people with alcohol and other drug-related problems, the services ran out of old houses with few paid staff.

While services maintained a common purpose, their approaches diverged - a source of conflict in the fledgling
Terry Murphy and Rev George Davies 
sector as workers scrambled to help the best way they knew how.

"We worked out of an old house owned by Main Roads, before they extended Newcastle Street," recalled WANADA Chairperson Terry Murphy of his early days in the sector.

With non-government organisations treating 80% of the client population with limited staff and only 20% of the alcohol and other drug funding, the sector needed an independent and unified voice

In 1984, the not-for-profit organisations put differences aside to form the Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (WANADA).

Improving the quality and efficiency of services was a high priority.

WANADA CEO Jill Rundle says that the foresight of WANADA's original members has resulted in a professional sector that serves people with alcohol and other drug-related issues across WA.

"Our membership is still diverse, with services including Therapeutic Communities, in-home drug and alcohol withdrawal, individual and group counselling, and needle and syringe exchange programs," says Jill. "Our unifying goal remains to improve the lives of people who may experience problems related to alcohol and other drug use."

Rev George Davies, along with current WANADA Chairperson Terry Murphy were both original members of WANADA's Executive Committee. At WANADA's 30th birthday celebrations in November, Rev Davies said that the sector has experienced "massive growth" over the last 30 years, remembering a time when services had only a handful of workers.

Community need has seen the establishment of more services, including peer-based organisation WASUA, the Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Service and Local Drug Action Groups.

"Services are now much more willing to work in partnership," says Jill. "We can see a huge difference, with agencies offering professional, evidence-based services, many of which are accredited against the Standard on Culturally Secure Practice (Alcohol and other Drug Sector)."

The sector, with WANADA, has weathered many changes, including changes in government, population increases, and changes in the culture around alcohol and other drug use..

"The Community Drug Summit in 2001 was just one of many significant events in our history because it raised awareness of drug use issues," says Jill. "Awareness raising must be ongoing to combat stigma and discrimination, which is still a barrier to people seeking support and information."

"Unless the community has some level of understanding, we won't see a reduction in stigma," says Jill. "We still have a long way to go."

Jeanette, Jill and Carol celebrate 30 years of WANADA with mocktails.
Jeanette Fernandez (The Salvation Army Bridge Programme), Jill Rundle (WANADA) and Carol Daws (Cyrenian House) celebrate WANADA's 30th Birthday with mocktails.

Do You Have A Memory To Share?

We welcome your comments and memories of the alcohol and other drug sector over the 30 years of WANADA's history. Please leave your comments below, or email drugpeak@wanada.org.au



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