Selden S & Lyle D, Broken Hill, Centre for Remote Health Research, University of Sydney
This project originally grew out of an Alcohol Community Development Project, conducted by the Far West Area Health Service, which ran for six years, concluding in 2004. Its aim was to implement recommended actions from the 2006 Murdi Paaki Health Report. Following this work the key stakeholders agreed the region needed an organisation to support the local communities and workers in alcohol harm reduction and prevention initiatives. This project aimed to establish the Remote Alcohol Resource and Advocacy Unit with additional support expected to be provided by other stakeholders. The project faced many obstacles in the early stages, including difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified staff; building a sense of community ownership of the project; and vast distances between communities resulting in long driving times. These obstacles slowed and eventually halted the project.
A proposal for a revised project was accepted with the following objectives: to identify promising community based interventions for the prevention or control of drug and alcohol problems in the Murdi Paaki region; to develop an agenda for implementing the community based interventions to prevent or control drug and alcohol misuse; and to implement the agenda, while evaluating its effectiveness. Unfortunately, many of the same problems plagued the second project, and this, coupled with changes in the NSW Government Health Services structure at the area level throughout the region, prevented an examination of any implementation of the Murdi Paaki Health Report recommendations. As a result, the project was only able to undertake work in relation to the first objective.
The Project Officer completed a framework for supporting the implementation of community-based alcohol primary prevention and early intervention programs. The framework builds on the conclusion that any change within a community can occur only if the community supports it; and provides an answer to the question of where does a community start if they want to build support and implement change? This ‘first-steps’ tool requires individuals with skills and experience to work through the various steps with communities and their partners. Having done this, communities can then choose the interventions that best suit their requirements, and more importantly, develop programs that do not repeat the mistakes of previous endeavours.