I've often said that if it were possible for me to accomplish just one thing in this area, I think that I would most like to make a difference to the whole problem of drug abuse in Dulwich Hill. That's not because I necessarily consider it to be a bigger problem than the gambling, materialism, or general godlessness I see around me, but I do consider myself to have a particular calling in this area. I do feel that if I could make a difference in this area, then my life and time here would have been worthwhile. Back in September '98, I published an open letter that I sent to media people etc.
, outlining some of the keys problems I saw. Not a great deal has changed since then. At that time I was trying to get involved in the 'Drug Summit' that was being held in Sydney, and I had the privilage of putting together some ideas with Mr Danny O'Connor, head of Central Sydney Area Health Services.
Our proposal was along the lines of ammending the Health Act to allow juvenilles who were arrested on petty crimes and suspected of drug use to be forcibly drug-tested and, if they were found to have drugs in their system, forcibly detoxed. This might sound rather rough to some people, but my experience is that our kids only get picked up for roughly one in every ten crimes they commit. If they are toying with drugs and petty crime, then they badly need to be pulled up on the first occasion that they are arrested.
As it is, a juvenille will often need to face court half a dozen times before any serious action is taken, and not every arrest leads to a court appearance. The result is that by the time the court is ready to take these kids seriously (which probably just means sending them to gaol) they have probably committed more than 100 crimes and are likely to be hardened addicts! No wonder so much of our government's budget on drugs goes into the rehabilitation of hardened addicts! What we need to have is a system that pulls the kid up after his first or second offense, verifies that the young one is playing around with drugs, gets the family involved, and pushes the kid through a detox programme. I believe that many of our juvenilles do not need to have a full six-month rehabilitation programme.
For those who are just dabbling, sticking them in a detox unit along with a room full of hardened addicts for a few days would probably be a soberig enough experience. As it is now, not only is no action taken towards juvenille drug users but, if the child is aged between 16 and 18, neither the Police nor the Juvenille Justice officers are allowed to even inform the family that their son or daughter has a drug problem - not without the child's permission! As it was, we never did get to make an appearance at the drug summit. The political person who was getting us a spot on the show let us down completely (thanks for nothing, Nathan).
I pushed the letter around to a few people who hold positions of responsibility within the church, but nothing much has come of that, as yet. The letter did generate an article in the local paper. You can find that article in the 'Press Clippings' section, or you can click on the links on this page. If anyone has any more suggestions on ways we can get things moving in this area, I'd be glad to hear them.
Rev. David B. Smith (the 'Fighting Father') Parish priest, community worker,martial arts master, pro boxer, author, father of three. www.fatherdave.org