The Smarter About Drugs strategy has been developed for young people, by young people, in response Australia21’s drug policy research.
Australia21 has produced three groundbreaking reports on Australia’s drug policy:
- The prohibition of illegal drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are letting it happen (2012)
- Alternatives to prohibition Illicit Drugs: How we can stop killing and criminalising young Australians (2012)
- Can Australia respond to drugs more effectively and safely? (2017)
In March 2017 the signatories to Australia21’s most recent report, who included senior police, prison officers and judges, called for the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to prioritise harm minimisation strategies and substance abuse treatment, instead of continuing the failed ‘War On Drugs’.
Along with former NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr and former Victorian Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett, those high profile law enforcers stood side-by-side with drug users to urge all Australians to consider the growing international evidence supporting the decriminalisation and regulation of substances for personal use.
Australia21 believes favouring health and education initiatives over a law and order approach will allow the nation a fighting chance at saving people from deaths, hospitalisations and the sort of criminalisation that ruins lives and often leads to harder drug use.
We also recognise that young Australians are most affected by drug policies: they are more likely to develop serious health, social or legal problems from drugs (including prescription medications and alcohol) and can experience severe criminal justice sanctions that have life changing impacts throughout adulthood. Yet young people are seldom asked their views on these matters.
To address this, in 2014 Australia21 partnered with the Ted Noffs Foundation and the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at the University of South Australia to co-host an event called ‘Smarter About Drugs’. Young people discussed issues, ideas and options with leading thinkers in the field, including Dr Alex Wodak AM, Mick Palmer AO APM, Matt Noffs and Vivienne Hall. The workshop was followed by a panel discussion, which also included parents, teachers and interested community members. Live streaming of questions and comments connected young people around Australia and made it a national event.
As a result of that workshop, Australia21’s youth advisory committee, YoungA21, proposed the development of an evidence-based teaching resource. A partnership was formed with the Australian Lions Drug Awareness Foundation (ALDAF) to make it happen.
The resource was already being designed when Cowandilla Primary School in South Australia asked Australia21 for help to deliver a drug and alcohol education program to its Year 7 and 8 students. The school’s staff and parents were enthusiastic supporters of the resulting Smarter About Drugs pilot, held in 2016.
“Maths is important and literacy is important, but this may well be a life-saving skill,” said Cowandilla PS Principal Julie Hayes.
You can watch a short documentary showing the positive impacts of the pilot program by clicking on the video below:
Australia21 and ALDAF went on to develop Smarter About Drugs: A conversation pack for a wider age group, including secondary students through to senior levels and young adults outside of schools.
The versatile resource was extensively researched, rigorously vetted by teachers and academics and mapped to the curriculum with the assistance of the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER).
Smarter About Drugs: A conversation pack was trialled among Year 11 students at Star of the Sea College in Victoria, ahead of its launch in August 2017. It is now available online.
Recognising the potential to take the Smarter About Drugs strategy beyond Health and Personal Development classes, Star of the Sea’s senior VCE Global Politics & Legal Studies teacher, Peter Farrar, integrated the conversation pack into a Global Politics unit focusing on the response of governments to the use of illicit drugs. He then made his additional teaching materials available to share through Australia21 and ALDAF, to demonstrate how Smarter About Drugs: A conversation pack can enhance teaching across subjects. Peter’s set, Smarter About Drugs: Global Politics, includes a unit outline, group worksheet, structured assignment and assessment sheet, and is also available online.
You can watch a video about Star of the Sea College’s success with the conversation pack by clicking on the video below:
The partnership between YoungA21, Australia21 and ALDAF is now focused on promoting the conversation pack and the additional teaching materials, as well as developing new Smarter About Drugs initiatives.