Connecting community through events
“As an individual you can’t fight this on your own. If you try to do it on your own it’s impossible. But as a community you can do something.”
The Mt Druitt Local Drug Action Team (LDAT) in Sydney’s west is working to bring the community together and lead action to prevent alcohol and other drug (AOD) harms.
As one of the first 40 LDATs to join the program, the team are now in the final stages of developing a local community-led action plan after receiving $20,000 funding from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to implement resilience building programs for families in their community.
"We’ve got this great bunch of people and we want a better life for all our kids,” says Mary Kerr from the Baabayn Aboriginal Corporation, the lead organisation of the Mt Druitt LDAT.
The LDAT plays a pivotal role in supporting members of the local housing estate.
“The community is incredibly important. It’s a big public housing estate and – like many major cities in Australia — where you have an isolated, on the fringe public housing estate, it brings lovely diversity, but also disadvantage and poverty,” said Mary.
Mary says that the founders of Baabayn — five Aboriginal Elders — identified that alcohol and other drugs (AOD) were a problem for their community and they were determined to do something about it.
Baabayn was established as a group to help heal the community. The Elders had a dream, they were from the community, seeing the difficulties most of the families face, and their focus has been on supporting families and establishing a healing place for the community.
From here, their journey toward forming the LDAT progressed, when the Elders called a meeting with a range of concerned organisations in the community in 2015. Forty groups including, Marrin Weejali, NGOs, and other services came together and organised a very special event: “Mt Druitt says NO to ICE”.
Mary says many of the families in the community were being affected by crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) and a community focused event was a good way to build solidarity around the need to take action.
The first event, which took place at the Mt Druitt pool, was really positive, bringing the whole community together – with more than 1,200 people coming along to play in the pool, listen to music and form connections. Amongst the fun, serious conversations also took place. People spoke out about the issues Mt Druitt was facing and considered potential solutions and a way forward. The event led to the identification of the centre as an important and positive space for the community to gather, and another day was held.
“Our centre has become a focal point for the community to come … all of the services come in when they have programs to run. It’s a focal point for health and housing and legal aid and all of the other services.
“While the events were good, and they helped build solidarity around issues like ice, we applied to form a Local Drug Action Team so we could undertake strategic planning, develop a community action plan and form a team which had a goal set for the coming year to address some of the bigger issues,” said Mary.
The first step for the team was hosting the recent Mt Druitt OCHRE Healing Forum, which gave space to the community to talk about trauma and unearth some further pathways toward healing.
Mary says they used the Healing Forum as another venue to talk to people about the work the LDAT was planning, particularly around prevention.
There is a very close synergy between the local drug action team and the healing forum, we need to work out how we can combine out efforts. They’re very integrated.
All the groups that came together from Elders to services providers came away talking about positive interventions and working with Mt Druitt’s young people.
The next step for the LDAT is to bring the group together and welcome the additional groups who attended the forum.
“We figure we need to run a bigger community consultation and some targeted focus groups. We have to keep on getting that buy-in from the community about what will work and their involvement is what will make it successful.”
And, Mary says, that success will come from the community.
As an individual you can’t fight this on your own. If you try to do it on your own it’s impossible. But as a community you can do something.
“The biggest lesson for our community was that we needed broad buy-in from a large number of organisations. We had about 40 people representing 20 organisations. They all contributed something – be it in-kind, financial or time, they all invested a lot to make sure that it was successful.”
“All of us look for support. We get a certain amount from our friends and family, but what we find here in Mt Druitt is that from our bigger group, they’re all incredibly supportive of one another and the issues each of the families are going through – it’s a bigger group to go to for support when you’re having those sorts of problems.”
“And that’s why it is important to take any opportunity at any event that you’ve got coming up, or community events where people are going to be there,” Mary says.
Use that event to talk about your LDAT and what it is doing. Constantly be looking for buy-in from the groups who can play an important role. Be strategic.
“Having the community buy-in is the most important aspect of having a successful outcome. It’s the community themselves that have to make the change.”
To find out how to join the LDAT program and receive $10,000 funding to develop a local community action plan click here.