Doorstop in Townsville to announce new funding commitment

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT HEALTH MINISTER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS: This is an important announcement today.

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Labor will invest $5 million into expanding the treatment facilities here in Townsville in partnership with the Salvation Army. It’s critical because between Townsville and Brisbane, there are no detox treatment centres. This $5 million will ensure that we have detox treatment facilities here in Townsville. It means people who are struggling with ice addiction, families who are trying to get treatment for their children, trying to turn their lives around, won’t have to put them on a plane and send them down to Brisbane or Melbourne. As we have heard stories about this morning, they will be able to get treatment, detox treatment and be able to turn their lives around in their own community and hopefully get their lives back on track and become a positive, contribution member of community.

This is a critical investment, we know we have a big problem with ice, we know we have a big problem with alcohol addiction here in Queensland and right throughout Australia. What we need is the services in the community which are going to turn these people’s lives around.

We know what the alternative is, it costs over $300 a day to keep somebody in prison, if their lives really go off the rails. With a treatment centre like this, the ability to do it in your own community, it means that we are able to turn people’s lives around and make them a positive, contributing member of the community, help those families who are struggling with a young person turn their lives around. So this is a great investment in the individuals but it is also an investment in the community and it will save money over the long run so I want to congratulate the Salvation Army for the work they have done in bringing this proposition forward and I want to invite Cathy O’Toole to say a few words. She has been an advocate over many, many years for this project and she has years of experience in the community sector here in Townsville and knows the importance of this project will bring to the local region.

JOURNALIST: In the last election campaign Labor was committing money towards the Salvation Army, obviously they didn’t get into Government but this will hopefully be something we can see through to fruition.

CATHY O’TOOLE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR HERBERT: Oh absolutely. This is such a fantastic announcement for our community. What Labor is saying to the Townsville community and the people in the Herbert electorate is that we understand that you have a major issue with drugs and alcohol and particularly ice and we are prepared to invest in services that will address those various issues. There is one thing, we talk about the ice epidemic and we talk about the fact that we need to do something but it a very different kettle of fish when you actually put money to services and facilities and do that. The major thing that this will do to our community is a resource where our young people can get the help and support that they need, as well as their families. So what we know in our community, we have a very high youth unemployment rate, we have an issue with youth crime, all of these things are connected. So this service is going to meet the needs of so many people and it will just be extraordinary. Schools will have a place to refer to, you know, people in the community sector will have somewhere to go with young people. We must invest in our young people because they are our future.

JOURNALIST: So this is going into the services, not so much that new centre that is being built I suppose?

O’TOOLE: No, this is going into the services and the centre. The centre has to be built, can’t deliver services if you don’t have a centre. We know this building here is decades and decades old, it’s past its use by date. What we need is a service and a facility that will provide the support to young people, their families for drug and alcohol rehabilitation detoxification.

JOURNALIST: Is there a timeline when you would like to see the centre up and running?

O’TOOLE: I will leave that to the Salvation Army people to talk about that because we’re partnering with them and this project and it is a great honour.

JOURNALIST: And obviously the State Government has already made a commitment to this and you have stood with them a few months ago.

O’TOOLE: Yes the State Government, the Palaszczuk Government and the Member for Townsville, Scott Stuart has committed $1 million to this project as well. So with our $5 million what Labor is saying at a State and particularly Federal level is that we understand that if we are going to address drug and alcohol and detoxification issues, we must invest.

JOURNALIST: That’s not enough for the full project as I understand it, the rest of the money will come from where – fundraising?

O’TOOLE: The Salvation Army, David Twivey will talk about that.

JOURNALIST: Any investment in education for young children before they get to that stage where they need treatment?

O’TOOLE: I’ll hand that back to Stephen.

JONES: We will be making further announcements throughout the course of the election campaign for our policies dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. But you can be certain of one thing, Labor sees the value of working with community organisations and families and schools to prevent people falling into the patterns of addiction and to help people turn their lives around when they stick their hands up to say we want to change the path we are on. Earlier today we had a conversation with Damien who has a fantastic story to tell. And sometimes it’s those really personal stories that light up the policy and really explain how an investment such as that which we are announcing today is going to make a difference, not only to an individual but the community. So I’d invite Damien to come and say a few words.

JOURNALIST: Sorry a quick one, are we expecting a nationwide education policy on drugs from Labor in the near future?

JONES: We will have more to say around our health policy and around our drug and alcohol policy over the course of the rest of the election campaign.

JOURNALIST: David, just how much will this money mean for the Salvation Army?

DAVID TWIVEY, MANAGER OF SALVATION ARMY TOWNSVILLE RECOVERY CENTRE: Well this is a terrific program we have put together over many years. It’s been one of the Salvation Army’s, at least in Australia target focus points because we wanted to meet the needs here in North Queensland which is a really significant need for people with ice and problematic behaviour as a result of drugs and to actually be at the top of the cliff so to speak, because our new program will be an out-client facility so they won’t necessarily have to be in-clients but we certainly will have that in-client service. To be at the top of the cliff and the bottom of the cliff facility for young people to get them working, to get them back to school, to get them you know on fire for their life. Because really, if you can invest in a child, really your community is looked after. I really commend the Labor Party for making this step forward and committing, from the Stat e Government and the Federal Government for making this project happen. It’s a $12.9 million project, it’s happening already, our solid works are completed so we just need to start building.

JOURNALIST: How are you going in terms of getting the other half of the money, I mean where are you at with fundraising?

TWIVEY: Our capital campaign with the very generous community that Townsville is, has raised over $4 million. So that’s a fantastic effort on our team here and local people and the community who have stepped forward and committed funds to that. The Salvation Army with their funds have sort of underwritten the project. So whatever the Government can help us with, it will make it an even better facility for this community and Townsville.

JOURNALIST: So you have about three million left to get still?

TWIVEY: I would like to think we have surplus money, but it’s amazing how once you start investing in people’s lives, there is so much to do. We won’t have any money left over. We will make sure it is spent very wisely.

JOURNALIST: So the remaining three million that you need are you hoping to raise that with the Red Shield Appeal and things like that?

TWIVEY: The Red Shield Appeal is coming up the weekend after next in May. And we raised half a million dollars in this community in Townsville and that is to help support running our services, there is a diverse range of services from homeless services to welfare to our defence services, we help the soldiers in our large defence community, so there is a whole lot of services that are helped through the Red Shield Appeal.

JOURNALIST: Do you have the Coalition matching this funding commitment so that it is guaranteed whoever gets in will help deliver for this facility?

TWIVEY: Look, I am really a-political about this, I just, I am always impressed by the way the Labor Party is always on the front foot of helping the Salvation Army standing up, but I certainly hope that it is bipartisan support.

JOURNALIST: David, mate, I guess anecdotally how many people do you see come through these doors with ice addiction?

TWIVEY: We get a 185 here through our facility at the moment.

JOURNALIST: Right, ok and currently what does that look like for you guys, like delivering services to them?

TWIVEY: Well we operate a three to nine-month service, it’s a residential program, we also have an out-client program as well for women and families that we operate throughout Townsville in different locations. So that 185 people, that is people who come through our residential program. Of course, that is with our program currently at 33 capacity which we are pretty well full all the time. Our new facility will have in excess of 50 beds. So the capacity has increased, larger out-client services, so we will certainly be able to impact our community in a greater way.

JONES: Earlier today, David spoke about the importance of not having people on waiting lists, you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot. When somebody has made the decision to turn their life around, something could happen in the next couple of days or the next couple of weeks, unless we are there to wrap our arms around people and provide them with the support and services that they need at that point in time when they have made the decision. We could lose them again. So, getting rid of those waiting lists, having the services available when someone has made that decision is absolutely critical.

JOURNALIST: Damien, do you want to say about your experience going through the Salvation Army, is that right? Would you mind telling us? Damien, so you can spell your first and last name so we have it correct?

DAMIEN MARTIN, SALVATION ARMY WORKER: Damien, Martin.

JOURNALIST: And your role with the Salvation Army is?

MARTIN: I am a support worker.

JOURNALIST: Damien, how long ago did you first come to the Salvation Army and what were you going through at the time?

MARTIN: I first came through here in 2003, as an addict, I’d been suffering addiction for about twenty years before I came to the Salvation Army.

JOURNALIST: What sort of drugs were you using at the time?

MARTIN: Mainly heroin and alcohol. There is pretty much nothing that I haven’t tried at some stage.

JOURNALIST: What made you realise you needed to reach out after twenty years?

MARTIN: I was at the end of the road, I had nothing more to lose. Then I was given the opportunity to come here, and it was a second chance for me.

JOURNALIST: How quickly did it begin to help? I suppose it is always a long journey, but how quickly did you start seeing results in yourself?

MARTIN: I actually had to come through here a couple of times but that’s the benefit of coming through places like this because they will give you another chance and another chance, whereas out in the community, people have used up all their second chances. The Salvos keep welcoming people back for another try.

JOURNALIST: And I suppose when you are talking about something like drug addiction, it’s not just a case of going cold turkey and that’s it, that’s the solution. It’s always going to be a rough road.

MARTIN: There is a lot of hard work and there is a lot of maintenance too. You don’t just get clean and then you were never an addict, you’ve got to keep working at it. There is a lot of maintenance to do and support services like this are really important.

JOURNALIST: And in recent years has the problem been growing in Townsville in relation to drug addictions?

MARTIN: It certainly has and the severity of the drugs is worse too. The quality of the drugs is a lot worse than what it was when I was using. It is a lot more dangerous. 

JOURNALIST: What is that doing to people?

MARTIN: It is destroying people’s brains.

JOURNALIST: Damien, mate now in your role as a support worker, are you helping drug addicts? That first person experience must help and help understand what these guys are going through?

MARTIN: Yeah it does, it gives us a good rapport with the guys, we can relate to the withdrawals and we can relate to the struggle and relate to the family issues and all the other things that the clients are going through.

JOURNALIST: Seeing these people come through here, must give you a sense of pride as well, you have turned a corner and now you are helping people who are in a situation you were in previously.

MARTIN: It does and it’s exciting too because I believe all the guys here can do it and if I can get well, anyone can get well.

JOURNALIST: Mate, it also must be tough at the same time, they say you never sort of break addiction, seeing these guys come through here who may still be in a grips of a high, it must be a bit tough seeing that as well.

MARTIN: Yeah it is but like that’s the beauty of a place like this where there are always second chances and the Salvos always have a door open. You know, I didn’t get it the first time, and if I was just written off after that first time, then I may be dead. So it is really important for places like this where people are welcome again and again and they actually do get it.

JOURNALIST: What do you think the new facility will do for the town?

MARTIN: It is very exciting.

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