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Sharing Stories launched


The “Sharing Stories” project is a powerful initiative led by Warrnambool library in partnership with WRAD Health that sheds light on the transformative journeys of people who have overcome addiction and moved towards a life of fulfillment and freedom. The emphasis on the importance of support and connection in this process is particularly important.

The project brings to light the struggles that individuals face in their journey from addiction to recovery, providing both an inspiring and informative path for others who may be going through similar challenges.

The storytelling aspect is crucial, as personal narratives often carry a unique perspective that statistics and research may lack. Through these stories, they humanise the issue of addiction, allowing the audience to connect emotionally with the experiences of those who have struggled and triumphed.

The goal of the participants is reducing stigma surrounding addiction, helping individuals feel more comfortable seeking help. By showcasing that recovery is possible and emphasising the significance of compassion, the project encourages a shift in societal attitudes towards those dealing with addiction.

Documenting and sharing success stories can contribute significantly to raising awareness and fostering a supportive environment for those on the path to recovery.

We hope this project demonstrates a valuable and compassionate effort that has the potential to inspire positive change in our community by promoting understanding, empathy, and support for individuals facing the challenges of addiction.

Please like and share this short animation that was the culmination of the combined stories of the participants.

Here’s the link developed by Gareth Colliton and Alex Francis from One Day Studios

SHARING STORIES is funded by the State Library Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria Libraries for Health and Wellbeing Innovation Grants.



Notice of AGM


WRAD Health.
Notice is hereby given that the 40th Annual
General Meeting will be held on Thursday December 7 at WRAD Health 172 Merri Street, commencing at 5.30pm.
Members of the public are welcome to
attend. Please RSVP for catering purposes at

WRAD Health joins 77 agencies calling for drug checking system


WRAD Health has joined 77 community agencies calling for the introduction of a drug checking system to save lives in Victoria.

The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) in collaboration with RMIT University today released a statement supported by 77 health and community agencies highlighting the dire need for a drug checking and enhanced public alert system to be implemented in Victoria.

VAADA initiated the campaign to call on the Victorian Government to adopt the unequivocal recommendation of the Coroners Court of Victoria to create a drug checking service for the state, believing this will save lives and provide information on emerging harmful substances prior to consumption.

The campaign is in response to a surge in fatal overdose of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) which mimic established substances but are often more harmful.

WRAD Health acting CEO Mark Powell said the proposed testing service aligned with WRAD Health’s focus on harm reduction.

“Unfortunately, people can purchase substances online or from dealers but not really know what they’re getting,” Mr Powell said.

“Obviously safest use is no use but we live in a world where people have access to these substances and are going to experiment, so we want to make that as safe as possible.”

WRAD Health is aware of anecdotal reports about local people having bad reactions to NPS because they weren’t aware of the ingredients.

Mr Powell said drug testing services at events or as a standalone service would allow people to find out what is in their drugs while helping them make more informed decisions.

“NPS contributed to the deaths of 47 people in 2021-22 which is a shocking statistic,” he said. “The worst part of it is that many of these deaths could have been prevented.”

Testing also creates opportunities for drug education. “We know that every time someone tests a substance, services have an opportunity to talk to that person about their substance use,” Mr Powell said.

A testing process can also lead to broader public warnings. “If bad ingredients are detected, we can be proactive and send out harm reduction messages to the community,” Mr Powell said.

Ruby Hunter welcomed as WRAD Health Patron


The late Ruby Hunter will be honoured as a Patron of WRAD Health.

Following discussions with her family, WRAD Health today announced that it was proud to welcome Ruby Hunter as a Patron of the centre that provides health related services in South West Victoria.

Ruby is WRAD Health’s third patron, joining her long-time partner Archie Roach AM and author Paul Jennings AM.

WRAD Health will honour her name with recognition on the centre’s honour board and on the WRAD Health website.

Recently retired CEO Geoff Soma, who instigated the recognition, said Ruby was a glowing example of what can be achieved through soul searching, grit and determination and love for her people and her family.

“We celebrate her wonderful life and it is pleasing that Archie and Ruby’s names will be embedded in WRAD Health’s rich history, alongside Paul Jennings,” he said.

Ruby was an Indigenous singer, art performer, mother and song writer and was born in South Australia.  She has also published children’s fiction and poetry as well as a musical based on her life.

Ruby, who died in 2010 aged 54, was part of the Stolen Generation and suffered many traumas over time.

Her early teens were affected by substance misuse, homelessness and chaotic and painful memories.

Throughout all of this she was a strong and proud Ngarrindjeri/ Kokatha/ Pitgantgatgara woman.

“Ruby Hunter rose above significant adversity and stood tall in her support for Aboriginal women. music and the arts,” Mr Soma said. “She was a strong role model for young people suffering from issues related to substance misuse.”

In her song “Down City streets”, Ruby highlighted alcohol abuse that she used to cope with her difficult life. In the line “Understand how street kids feel when they are put down” she spoke of her feelings and empathy for those struggling with life’s challenges.

Mr Soma said WRAD Health acknowledged Ruby’s family for allowing the centre to promote her as a “beacon of hope and courage for clients and families”. Her songs and story will encourage and inspire others along the recovery road.

WRAD Health highlights overdose risks


WRAD Health is launching a new campaign to stop accidental overdose deaths with concerns rising about the impacts of prescription drugs.

The WRAD Health building in Merri Street will turn purple on August 31 to recognise International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) and remember without stigma those who have died or become permanently injured due to overdose.

It will also highlight effective harm reduction strategies, including Naloxone.

AOD Clinician Anna Pike said WRAD Health was using IOAD to increase awareness of preventable death, including those due to prescription medication. 

“The Australian institute of Health and Welfare records prescription opioids as the most common drug class present in drug-induced deaths over the past decade,” Ms Pike said.

However, Ms Pike said many of these deaths could have been avoided by using Naloxone that became available with no prescription needed from July 1, 2022.

“Naloxone is for anyone who may experience, or witness, an opioid overdose or adverse reaction,” Ms Pike said. “The person will still need emergency help but Naloxone can give emergency services more time to get to the person. Naloxone is a safe and effective medication that now comes in a nasal spray.”

Naloxone is available from WRAD Health and pharmacies but many don’t realise it’s life-saving potential.

“Most people don’t know about Naloxone,” Ms Pike said. “We pass on the information to people who attend WRAD Health with opioid use problems, but it isn’t well known in the community.”

“The biggest overdose numbers in Australia are from prescription opiates. Many people don’t realise how easy it is to overdose on prescription medication so it is important to have access to Naloxone.”

WRAD Health also provides Naloxone education sessions for interested community members. 

People who may benefit from Naloxone or harm reduction or know someone who may benefit from the medication can reach out to WRAD Health on 55645777 or at 172 Merri Street, Warrnambool.

Pride in Your Health Conference to address challenges


A conference in Warrnambool on June 21 is designed to uplift, educate and advocate for a healthier future for LGBTIQA+ communities.

The Pride In Your Health: LGBTIQA+ Diversity and Inclusion Conference will be held at the Deakin Warrnambool Campus to celebrate diversity and address the unique health challenges faced by the rainbow communities.

It will feature a series of workshops, panel session and presenters to offer attendees guidance to improve their access to the health system.

WRAD Health, in partnership with local organisations, is delivering the conference to highlight issues of access to healthcare for members of the LGBTIQA+ communities, present current research around the physical, psychological and substance use issues that impact the LGBTIQA+ communities, to increase practitioner knowledge of and connect LGBTIQA+ inclusive groups/services in the area and encourage action to reduce barriers for LGBTIQA+ communities.

WRAD Health operations manager Mark Powell said both members and allies of the vibrant LGBTIQA+ communities were invited to join an empowering and inclusive event for health professionals from noon on June 21. People can book tickets for the Pride in Your Health conference at

The Pride in Your Health Conference Committee is committed to providing a safe and supportive space where individuals and agencies can gather to explore critical health topics affecting the LGBTIQA+ communities.

Mr Powell said it would feature an engaging line-up of local and renowned experts, healthcare professionals and community leaders to delve into the issues.

“Let’s work together to tackle the challenges on health issues for the LGBTIQA+ communities,” he said.

Sessions will cover lived and living experiences in navigating the health system, specific issues for the youth of south-west Victoria, mental health impacts, becoming Rainbow Tick accredited and facing the issues of discrimination in healthcare and much more.

“Through our workshops and panel session, we hope to create active participation and open dialogue, and we want engaging and thought-provoking discussion and interaction,” Mr Powell said. “The range of presenters will offer a wealth of information and offer attendees opportunities for questions and guidance to improve the health system. Hopefully they will walk away with increased knowledge but more importantly connections with like-minded people and services.

“We hope this will be a transformative event that will impact lives and drive positive change and that together we can pave the way to a healthier and more inclusive future for all.”

The event is being organised partnership with Leadership Great South Coast, Deakin University, Brophy Youth & Family Services, Wellways, Meli, South West Healthcare, Western Victoria Primary Health Network, South West TAFE, and Warrnambool, Moyne, Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Corangamite local government.



WRAD Health’s longest serving CEO Geoff Soma will retire at the end of June, ending a 23-year career with the organisation.

Mr Soma, who turns 70 next month, has overseen WRAD Health’s growth from 10 to 38 staff plus seven contractors delivering a much wider range of health services across the region.

He has been a staunch advocate for developing local health services and changing community attitudes to support people with substance misuse issues.

“It has been a wonderful career working with great people providing services to our important client group,” Mr Soma said.

“There have been many achievements along the way and I am very proud of where WRAD Health is today and what we stand for.”

WRAD Health operations manager Mark Powell will be acting CEO from July 1. “WRAD Health is in good hands with skilled staff and a very supportive and dedicated committee of management,” Mr Soma said.

WRAD Health committee of management chairperson Helen Taylor paid tribute to Mr Soma, describing him as the driving force behind the organisation’s commitment to improving health outcomes for the region.

“Geoff came with fresh ideas and a great deal of experience in managing drug and alcohol-related issues and he has been terrific in his leadership role over the past 23 years,” Ms Taylor said.

“He has an uncanny ability to manage finances and he was able to support WRAD Health to develop many new programs to support people in our community. Geoff was able to attract a variety of skilled and capable staff and juggle all kinds of different roles very successfully to ensure WRAD Health has moved forward.”

Mr Soma says he is most proud of developing WRAD’s position in the community, its broad range of services and its ability to influence community perceptions about substance use.

“There is now greater acceptance of substance misuse as a health issue and that has been incredibly important,” he said. “The community has embraced that and attitudes have improved for the better.”

Mr Soma said the development of integrated wrap-around services, including having clinical, medical, psychiatric, dual diagnosis and social workers based at the same centre, had been beneficial for the local community.

In recent years, key improvements have included the development of outreach services for clients with substance misuse issues, the growth in medical and allied health services, including more GPs, psychiatrists, consultant psychologists, developing wall murals, documenting recovery stories, recruiting Paul Jennings and Archie Roach as patrons, and the introduction of an after-hours service.

“I think it’s great that we have a bulk billing medical practice providing accessible health care for clients,” he said.

He says the time is right to retire. “I have been doing this for a long time and have been a manager since 1985 in Melbourne, New Zealand and now Warrnambool.

“It’s time to be doing other things, such as walking, gardening, reading, music, spending time with family and hopefully some travel.”

Working with people battling substance misuse issues can be challenging and stressful, but Mr Soma has always focused on the positives.

“Regularly I hear something positive about what clients have achieved by using one of our services and we make a difference in our community,” he said.

“I think we contribute to the social fabric of the community in that we provide essential support so that people can affect change.”

Mr Soma started as WRAD director on August 2, 2000 but his career in the field stems back to 1984.

Mr Powell, who has been operations manager for three years, will be acting CEO for 12 months. “It is a significant time of change for the agency after a period of significant growth so I aim to consolidate on what WRAD Health has achieved and continue to advocate for a full suite of services to serve the needs of the community.”

New program brings healthcare to homeless people


A new pilot program will deliver healthcare directly to south-west Victorians experiencing homelessness.

WRAD Health, with funding from WestVic Primary Health Network, is embarking on a pilot program for six months to bring medical services to those who may be experiencing homelessness or sleeping rough. The team of a nurse, alcohol and other drug clinician and doctor will work together with existing support services to the homeless to provide access to healthcare.

The WRAD Health Project Connect aims to engage people into comprehensive medical care through provision of a holistic approach providing the opportunity for assessment of a person’s physical health needs and if required further assessment and management of drug and alcohol and/or mental health related conditions.

WRAD Health operations manager Mark Powell said every night, thousands of people sleep rough on Australian streets because they don’t have access to safe, secure housing. “They are some of our most vulnerable people who can have complex health needs that deserve expert care outside the structures of the current office-based medical services,” Mr Powell said.

It is estimated that 50 people in every 10,000 are experiencing homelessness in Australia.

Mr Powell said not all people sleeping rough use drugs and alcohol. “However, we know from research that those people experiencing homelessness are at greater risk for developing substance use problems as they strive to cope with the stress and challenges of homelessness.

“WRAD Health hopes to deliver a sustainable model that can continue to meet the health needs of those vulnerable members of our community.”

For more information ring 55 645 777 or to make an appointment.


Need After Hours Help?

Emergency call 000
For medical issues call South West Healthcare 55 631666
For mental health issues call SWH emergency dep't 55 631 666 or 1800 808 284
For drug and alcohol issues call Directline 1800 888 236
For Lifeline call 13 11 14
Or click on the links below for help.