RENOWNED youth worker Les Twentyman believes the rest of Australia could benefit from adopting the Wimmera’s approach towards preventing crystal methamphetamine-related harm.
Mr Twentyman was a guest speaker at ice forums at Nhill and Edenhope on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Giving people the opportunity to learn about it and get answers from police, youth workers, health workers and other service providers is fantastic,” he said.
“It is an excellent template to roll out right across the country.”
Mr Twentyman also addressed the region’s students during his two-day tour of the Wimmera.
More than 400 people attended the Nhill forum, with 230 attending the Edenhope session.
“I think it’s out of this world to have crowds of such high numbers show up in small country towns,” he said.
“It shows that country people are voting with their feet.
“Between the forums and school visits there are now about 2000 people who now know a lot more about crystal methamphetamine and what it does than they did two days ago.”
Mr Twentyman said people were primarily concerned with how to tell if people were using the drug.
“One of the biggest indications is that valuable stuff starts to go missing,” he said.
“The other is that there is a complete change in people’s behaviour. They are just not the same people they used to be.”
Mr Twentyman said strong sports and arts programs were vital to keep youth engaged.
“They provide structure, discipline, keep people fit and active and help them avoid depression,” he said.
“I also think we need to deal with the terrible problem of school suspension and implement other programs.”
Mr Twentyman thanked the Wimmera communities for making him feel welcome – in particular the police, who chauffeured him across the region.
Horsham Inspector Trevor Ashton said Mr Twentyman was a fantastic drawcard.
“What is blatantly obvious to me and the people who organise these forums is that the community wants and needs to know what the ramifications are of using crystal methamphetamine,” he said.
“What continues to impress me is the very real and legitimate questions community members are asking of the panel.
“I’d like to thank the community for its involvement and continued support and its willingness to help eradicate this illicit substance from the region.”
The forums also discussed problems associated with prescription medication addiction.
Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce member Margaret Millington said although it was great to see so much being done to combat illicit drugs, prescription medication overdose was often overlooked.
“The number of deaths from overdoses of prescription medication exceeds the road toll,” she said.
“That’s a remarkable statistic I think needs to be out there.”
Mrs Millington and her family are strong advocates for the real-time monitoring of prescription pharmaceuticals.
“It is something real that can be done to protect people,” she said.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about our push for real-time monitoring.
“The government needs to take the next step and implement it.”
Mr Twentyman said people could visit http://20thman.com.au or call 9689 4800 for information or support for at-risk youth.