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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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