Every day in creative ways, Drug Action Teams around Australia are stepping nimbly over the barriers and roadblocks the COVID-19 lockdown is throwing up. With some ideas on hold, new opportunities are also opening up.
For the Australian Chin community, originally from Myanmar, home schooling during a coronavirus pandemic understandably posed new challenges for community leaders, church leaders, parents and young people.
That’s where the Melbourne-based Chin Drug Action Team banded together with the community to support them through this new challenge, by providing essential resources such as ways to navigate government websites and access information. The Chin community stay connected and support each other through Zoom, e.g online church services, Bible study and supporting each other with homework.
The group produced a series of videos in Hakha Chin dialect, which featured professional advice on health care, finance and welfare entitlements. They were posted on Facebook to support the whole Chin community.
A short distance away in Melbourne’s suburban south-east, Casey LDAT is using this time to test the waters for future programs.
After surveying local target audiences about attitudes to drinking and the harm it causes young adults, the Casey team has identified potential areas that need further probing. For instance, young people often fail to recognise the subtle influences at play when being exposed to alcohol messaging in the marketplace, in cultural settings and on social media.
When COVID hit, the project quickly became even more relevant with the increase of alcohol consumption sparked by the lockdown.
Abandoning planned face-to-face workshops, the team is now moving to a series of online forums involving parents, young people and influencers. Together they will unpack the information from the survey and other issues the forums uncover. From there, they will jointly design new programs and consider funding opportunities to get them up and running.
And in Perth’s expanding north-eastern suburbs, the Swan City Youth Service LDAT is also doing some skilled improvisation. It has had to put down the microphone but is still determined to be heard.
Normally their popular music program offers aspiring young artists the chance to get creative and even record their own songs. Despite the youth centre having to temporarily shut its doors, the team is still busy offering advice and referrals.
“We are still here. Although the music program is on hold, we’re still supporting the participants,” says Swan City Youth Service CEO Michael Kerr.
“Even if they’re not coming into the youth centre, they can still talk to us or we can help with emergency relief and other things. Social isolation in these young people is a big fear for us, when we’ve done so much work to turn it around.”
It might not be business as usual, but the need in the community has never been greater and the response from our Drug Action Teams never more important, more relevant or more supportive.