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Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Youth given wrong message on drug safety

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I read, with interest, comments in The Sydney Morning Herald (3 January) attributed to Superintendent Danny Doherty (Central Metropolitan Region Operations Manager).

He refers, of course, to the 214 arrests  at the recent ‘Fuzzy’s Field Day Festival’ in Sydney and comments: ‘obviously having a large number of detections yesterday indicates to me that it’s disappointing that people aren’t getting the message’.

The article went on to quote him as saying ‘The number of detections is increasing at each festival’.

While the writer can, on one level, understand the frustration expressed by the superintendent, common sense would tell you that when a widely disseminated ‘message’ (press, radio, TV, social media) is obviously failing to reach (and to influence the behaviour of) its target audience then it’s time to change the message.

Fortunately for him the solution is at hand, in the same article we have the rather more enlightened approach of John Rogerson, director of The Australian Drug Foundation, quoted as saying ‘There is a desperate need to change the focus of the ecstasy debate. At the end of the day, with illicit drugs, we’re never going to arrest our way out of the problem’.

The point of all this has long been well understood to most people in this shire.

Around this issue many of us have had personal contact with the police and the courts over the years and have watched and marvelled at the persistence of our elected representatives (and the bureaucracies that answer to them) in maintaining, procedures and practices that have failed, over decades, to deliver the desired outcomes: outcomes dictated more by the policies of the two main political parties, a handful of barely elected loonies in the Legislative Council and their right wing cronies.

These are, I might add, policies persisted with largely due to a lack of courage on the part of these elected representatives and an unwillingness to confront the voters with the truth about this long-held approach to the drug ‘problem’, admit the failure of those policies and open the floor for an open, vigorous, public (and bi-partisan) debate on the subject.

In closing, I note the article in this week’s Echo announcing the funding cuts to the Byron Youth Service’s Links to Learning program, a program which, in the words of co-ordinator, Karen Ford, ‘helps re-engage young people in either education or employment training and has been running for over eight years servicing in-school students and early school leavers’.

One wonders what ‘message’ these very vulnerable young people are getting about the importance this society attaches to their personal growth when they read these two newspaper articles side by side in the same week.

Graham Mathews, Bangalow

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