Category: News

Family voices need to be heard


WRAD Health CEO Mark Powell has backed calls by families for a harm reduction approach towards people with addiction rather than a punitive stand.

Speaking on the eve of International Family Drug Support Day on February 24, Mr Powell said WRAD Health strongly supported the engagement of families and recognised the important role they play in the care and treatment of anyone struggling with substance disorders.

He backed calls from Family Drug Support (FDS), for more recognition of the voice of families.

Founder and CEO of FDS, Tony Trimingham OAM, who started the organisation after the death of his son Damien 25 years ago, said it was now abundantly clear that the national drug policy debate was missing a critically important voice – families.

“When a family member is badly impacted by substance use, it can break you. It can break relationships. It can break families. Broken families weaken communities and are often hard to see, because we’re all very good at hiding the issue.

“It appears everyone has a say on our current drug policies, including politicians, police, religious leaders and media commentators, yet families are too often left out of these discussions, despite being the people, along with the people using drugs, most affected by the current policies.”

Mr Trimingham said that in FDS’s recent Voices to be Heard Survey of more than 600 family members affected by someone else’s drug and alcohol use, families were unambiguous about their deep dissatisfaction with the status quo regarding drug policy.

“This was especially the case with the zealousness of government to pursue the punitive responses rather than those of compassion, which are far more effective in reducing harm and exacerbating problems for families.”

In looking at the results of the survey, families overwhelmingly support the following: • Needle & syringe programs (87.5%) • Pill testing services (85.7%) • Pharmacotherapy (methadone, buprenorphine etc.) programs (86.3%) • Medically supervised injecting centres (83.1%) • Medicinal cannabis (83.9%) • Prescription heroin programs (74.8%)

In addition, families wanted to see resources allocated to harm reduction strategies by a factor of almost 7:1 when compared to law enforcement strategies.

The reality being experienced by families from the extraordinarily harmful legal consequences of drug use resulted in families overwhelmingly supporting the legalisation of cannabis and strongly supporting the decriminalisation of all currently illicit drugs.

Furthermore, it is also clear that families often try tough love approaches (60%) when trying to deal with drug and alcohol issues with family members but find them to be ineffective and problematic. As a result, families become far more in favour of strategies that encourage connection and coping (86%), with as few as 10% continuing to support tough love approaches.

Mr Powell said the survey shows families support a harm reduction approach. “They recognise that a punitive approach to people with addiction is unhelpful and doesn’t engage them into treatment, creating even greater risk.

“This is echoed people working in the field.”

WRAD Health has been facilitating groups for families for several years and recognises the impact and distress families face and some of the barriers to treatment for them including feelings of anger, guilt, shame and stigma.

“Hopefully days such as IFDS bring a spotlight to their experiences and further breakdown those barriers,” Mr Powell said.

WRAD Health continues to support and advocate for focused interventions for families and significant others of someone using substances.

New report highlights alcohol concerns


WRAD Health is concerned that parents need more information on alcohol in response to the Australia Drug Foundation’s new report

Alcohol is the number one primary substance use issue for people in south-west Victoria and has remained so year-on-year.

WRAD Health CEO Mark Powell said alcohol was an embedded part of our culture so parents and care givers need to be armed with the right information.

The report found nearly two-thirds (65%) of Australian high school students in 2022/23 reported having ever consumed alcohol, including a few sips. Overall, 44% had consumed an alcoholic drink in the past year, 22% had drank in the past month, and around one-in-10 (11%) said they had consumed alcohol in the past week.

Of the 11% who drank in the past week (classified as ‘current drinkers’):

  • Almost half (47%) obtained their last alcoholic drink from a parent.
  • Around one-third (35%) reported they had the intention to get drunk either most times or every time they consumed alcohol.
  • Over half (54%) had experienced at least one negative outcome in the past year after drinking alcohol, such as vomiting, doing something they regretted, or trying smoking or drugs.
  • The most common type of alcohol usually consumed were spirits or pre-mixed spirits.

WRAD Health, along with a number of other key agencies, has embarked on a campaign to educate the community on the NHMRC guidelines for alcohol consumption; no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks in any one occasion as a safer level of consumption.

Mr Powell said he was very concerned at the figure of 11% of young people drinking weekly. “That is a figure that requires much further understanding as there may be many reasons for such regular use that we know is high risk for a number of adverse outcomes,” he said.

Any parents who are concerned around having the conversation feel free to contact WRAD Health for more information or if you want to know more about the programs that WRAD Health offers can call 55 645 777 or email or visit

Some tips for families;

Talking to teenagers about alcohol is an important and potentially challenging conversation. Here are some tips to help parents approach this topic:

Choose the right time. Don’t do this when the have just come home after drinking session or have all their mates around putting pressure on them. Choose a time when everyone is calm and not in the midst of other activities or distractions.

Be Open and Approachable: Approach the conversation with a non-judgmental and open attitude. Make it clear that you are there to listen and understand their perspective and that this is not going to be a “lecture”. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and concerns, rather than sounding accusatory.

Share Information: Provide factual information about the risks and consequences of alcohol use, including both short-term and long-term effects. Use the NHMRC guidelines as a talking point such what you do you know about standard drinks? What do you think about only having 4 standard drinks on any one occasion? Share any personal experiences or stories that might emphasize the importance of responsible drinking.

Set clear expectations: Clearly communicate your expectations regarding alcohol use, especially if your teenager is approaching the legal drinking age. Emphasize the importance of responsible and moderate drinking, if they choose to drink at all.

Discuss Peer Pressure Address the issue of peer pressure and discuss strategies for resisting it. Encourage them to make decisions based on their own values and beliefs.

Talk about boundaries and safety: Discuss the importance of setting and respecting personal boundaries, as well as looking out for the safety of themselves and their friends when in situations involving alcohol.

Encourage open conversations; Let your teenager know that they can come to you with questions or concerns about alcohol at any time. Encourage open and honest communication.

Be a good role model Demonstrate responsible drinking behaviour yourself, as teenagers often learn from the examples set by their parents. If you don’t drink, explain your reasons for abstaining, reinforcing the idea that it’s a personal choice.

Discuss Legal consequences Make sure your teenager understands the legal consequences of underage drinking. This may include legal trouble, potential fines, and the impact on their future opportunities.

Reinforce positive behaviour: I think this one is most important to notice and acknowledge the positive choices and behaviours our young people do as they will be more likely to repeat them. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator.

Artwork honours Patron


WRAD Health is now proudly displaying a special painting of Patron Ruby Hunter, kindly donated Ruby’s friend artist Bindii Cody Nappangarttii Smith and her brother Eric Richards.

Ruby was posthumously made a Patron of WRAD Health last year, joining her late partner and fellow musician Archie Roach.

This painting serves as a living tribute, to the spirit of Ruby Hunter. Ruby was a trailblazer in the world of music and a beacon of strength, resilience and creativity and a source of inspiration for generations to come.
Ruby’s brother Eric Richards endorsed the artwork, saying it reflected a deep appreciation for what his sister represents in her journey and a desire to share her legacy with the world.

Bindii is a truly gifted artist whose brushstrokes bring stories to life and WRAD Health appreciates the generosity of this donation to celebrate Ruby’s enduring impact.

Sharing Stories launched


Here’s a YouTube link to the video.

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.

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.


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