SA rehab body cries foul over cuts

The South Australian-based Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council faces closure after the Federal Government announced it would cut funding to the parent body from January, according to its chief executive officer Scott Wilson.

The ADAC provides rehabilitation and day-centre support, as well as running anti-drug campaigns.

Mr Wilson said the Federal Government had created an unworkable situation by providing $1.5 million funding over two years to the council’s rehabilitation centre and $1.4 million for the same period to its two day centres, but cutting its $700,000 to ADAC.

“I said ‘Well, how is that going to work’?” Mr Wilson said. “These other services are not incorporated associations. The money comes through us. We do all the pays, all the leasing.

“‘How do you think staff are going to be paid beyond January 1?

“It’s like trying to bake a cake without flour.”

Mr Wilson said ADAC employed 57 people, most in the Port Augusta and Ceduna day centres and the Port Augusta rehabilitation centre. A number of staff work in the ADAC headquarters in Adelaide.

He said the organisation would not be able to restructure and de-centralise in six months.

Mr Wilson said he was seeking a meeting with Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion.

“It’s disruptive and distressing for the people, but also for the clients who don’t want to go to a government rehabilitation service,” Mr Wilson said.

He said ADAC helped 30,000 Indigenous people a year and was set up 25 years ago as a direct result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

He said it represented over 30 Indigenous community-controlled member organisations across SA and provided alcohol and drug resources to nearly 2000 community organisations nationwide.

“If the day centre’s not there, for example, they will go back to drinking in the shrub and slip into a coma and if there’s no-one around they’ll probably just die,” he said.

“It’s almost like you take one step forward and you think everything is going fine, you are providing people with support and help through the rehab and day centres, and then all of a sudden it seems to happen every couple of years government decides it is going to do something different.”

Mr Wilson asked the Federal Government to reconsider.

“We need the funding back,” he said. “We have so many clients in crisis who need our help.”

‘No cut to funding’

A spokesman for Mr Scullion said the government was not cutting frontline alcohol and drug services for Indigenous Australians.

He said it invested about $70 million a year to more than 80 services on top of $685 million committed over four years through the Department of Health to reduce the impact of alcohol and drugs on individuals, families and communities.

“There is no cut to ADAC’s funding for delivery of their residential and day AOD treatment services, with $5.76m total funding continuing for the next 2 years,” he said.

“Funding for ADAC’s AOD services already incorporate administration and management costs and the peak body activities are separate to core service delivery.”

The spokesperson said the government would assess the effectiveness of ADAC in the next six months to decide if additional frontline services were needed.

“This government will always ensure the effectiveness of funding to all organisations and reject that organisations including Mr Scott Wilson’s ADAC should be exempt from being accountable for Commonwealth funds aimed at improving the lives of Indigenous Australians, and the outcomes delivered with this Indigenous funding,” he said.

Wendy Caccetta

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