Coralie Ober wants the Federal Government’s CDEP program to come back to help save any more indigenous people here from dying.
Coralie Ober wants the Federal Government’s CDEP program to come back to help save any more indigenous people here from dying. Toni McRae

Alcohol epidemic killing young men

THE ALCOHOL-RELATED death toll among young Fraser Coast indigenous men is reaching epidemic proportions with the funeral of the fifth this year held in Hervey Bay last week.

“We have to have a rehabilitation centre here and urgently,” the deputy chair of the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee, Coralie Ober, said yesterday.

“We are losing our young men too fast because of alcohol and drugs and we can’t keep sending them to rehab centres in Brisbane, Bundaberg and Cherbourg. They need to be with their families while they fight the addiction and are treated for it.”

Two local Butchulla women, who voluntarily take part in the indigenous cell watch program, are devastated over the escalating deaths.

“Something’s got to be done,” Mally Clarke said. “We have to get a dry-out centre here for our people and for non-indigenous, because there are no facilities to help them around here either.”

“They detox when they are sent away for treatment but because they are entirely cut off from their families they don’t finish the program, come home and get on the alcohol and drugs again,” Roslyn Howden said.

Ms Ober, who is spearheading the launch of the Bay’s indigenous medical practice, Galangoor, said the centre would soon be able to help with drug and alcohol programs but services would be limited because of a lack of resources.

“Some of us advised Canberra that the removal of the Community Development Employment Projects program just over a year ago could lead to alcoholism and drug addiction, even deaths, but the program was still removed.

“This has prevented us from running home-based treatment programs while the CDEP workers stayed connected and maintained their self-esteem by working. Young men and for that matter the young women too need to feel as if they are contributing.”

Dhugamin Corporation leader Steven Vea Vea said the death trail had become unacceptable.

“These young men often have mental health problems along with their addictions but when they turn up to the authorities for help, if they smell of alcohol they are turned away.

“They feel no one gives a hoot and so they give up and die.”

‘Young men and for that matter the young women too need to feel as if they are contributing’



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