National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

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10 Dec 2010

Submission by Jan Warren (South Australian Department of Education and Children's Services)

Introduction and Mission

DECS strongly supports:

- the continuing overarching approach of harm minimisation, the three pillars of supply, demand, and harm reduction; commitment to building workforce capacity , evidence-based and informed practice etc. etc.

- the critical partnership approach across sectors, levels, jurisdictions.

- emphasis on describing costs and harms of drug use, particularly to children, families, communities

- use of data relating to need for lowering the age of uptake; need for early intervention.

- emphasis on schools and communities as significant settings for preventative interventions.

- recognition of risks around transition points and the secondary years of schooling;

- recognition of adolescent needs re coping mechanisms etc and the implicit role of schools in helping to address these issues.

It is noted that the sub strategy: National School Drug Education Strategy has been removed from the previous list of sub-strategies 2004-2009. It is assumed that this is an outcome of the allocation of funding to states and territories under the National Education Agreement, and that it is planned to integrate school-based action in other strategies under the NDS.

It may be helpful to explain this in the introduction, as the NDS framework so strongly emphasises issues relating to children, young people and families; the need for more socially included and resilient individuals, families and communities; the value of networks; promotion of safe and healthy lifestyles; childcare and schools as settings for “points of life” transition and potential agents of change for parents and communities; as settings for preventative intervention; and the “central” health-education-law enforcement partnership; and where performance indicators relate to age of initiation and prevalence data.

The Pillars: Supply Reduction

DECS strongly supports parental and family education re supply of alcohol to minors: as agents of change in communities, schools can play a role by engaging parents through their children's drug education programs to raise awareness about issues and approaches to prevention and intervention.

The Pillars: Demand Reduction

DECS acknowledges that a robust partnership approach is critical to achieving outcomes of the NDS. However schools and teachers (rather than other agencies) must remain central to the carriage of school drug education e.g. there is strong agreement in the research that for drug education programs to be effective they need to be based on the needs of, and be relevant to, the students who will participate in them. Providing students, particularly in secondary education, with opportunities to assert their needs within program development and delivery is important for the determination of appropriate content and learning strategies. Teachers are best placed to do this, and to respond sensitively to the individual needs of young people and families around these issues.

Informing, consulting and supporting families as part of the school’s drug education process is likely to lead to better outcomes. A number of reviews on effective drug education programs recommend the inclusion of a parental component.

A continuing emphasis on the role schools play in building resilience by promoting protective factors for wellbeing such as connection to schooling; engaging curriculum; success and achievement; positive relationships; and to address risk factors such as bullying; peer rejection; school failure; ineffective behaviour management etc. could be made explicit.

The Pillars: Harm reduction

DECS strongly supports diversion initiatives that also include responses to school-drug incidents that need to involve police. These provide an excellent opportunity for early intervention and help to build authentic partnerships between health, law enforcement and education.

DECS strongly supports "drug education initiatives to ensure they are appropriately targeted and evidence based in terms of patterns of substance abuse through the life span and mode of delivery".

Workforce

DECS strongly supports workforce development and capacity building. Schools, through teachers and school counsellors, can act as agents of early and brief interventions and referral: training/workforce development is essential to a quality response. Effective responses to drug-related incidents (that can often involve IDDI) can prevent secondary and tertiary harm.

Evidence base and Performance measures

To date the Principles for School Drug Education (2004) have well informed approaches taken by education, health and law enforcement in the provision drug education to school-age young people. Strengthening of this evidence base is welcomed.

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