Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia's (AHCWA) policy submission to the consultation draft National Alcohol Strategy 2018-2026 (draft strategy) was released in December 2017 by the Commonwealth Department of Health (Commonwealth).
The Aboriginal population of Western Australia (WA) represents the third largest in Australia, with Aboriginal people making up just fewer than 4% of the WA population.1 WA covers a large area and the Aboriginal population is geographically dispersed. Access to services, including culturally secure alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation services, as well as to culturally secure mental health and social and emotional wellbeing services, is inconsistent across the State.
- AHCWA recognises that certain regulatory measures, when implemented through genuine planning and consultation with Aboriginal communities, can be effective strategies for reducing alcohol harms. Notwithstanding this, AHCWA asserts that genuine consultation with ACCHS, Aboriginal people and communities is imperative to ensure the draft strategy actions are culturally secure, sustainable and effective.
- AHCWA is frustrated therefore that the draft strategy does not recognise the integral and important role of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) in delivering early alcohol intervention and prevention services for Aboriginal people, despite the 2017 Closing the Gap progress and priorities report recommending ACCHS as the preferred providers for the delivery of primary health services to Aboriginal peoples.
- The draft strategy requires a planned, holistic, strategic and culturally secure approach to ensure its effectiveness for Aboriginal people and communities. Without this approach AHCWA is concerned that the draft strategy will lead to punitive outcomes for Aboriginal people, including increased incarceration rates, rather than improved health and alcohol reduction outcomes.
- Poorer health, social, education and social-emotional outcomes are causative factors in alcohol use and harms and in poorer mental health and social and emotional wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal people in Western Australia. The draft strategy must incorporate actions directed towards addressing complex co-occurring alcohol, mental health and social and emotional wellbeing issues. It currently does not.
- Implementation of the draft strategy requires investment in ACCHS for the expansion of early intervention, prevention and alcohol treatment services and co-occurring mental health, social and emotional wellbeing services.