By ERWIN CHLANDA
Its role in mandatory rehabilitation of drunks is still “very early in the discussion” with the NT Government, according to acting CEO of the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programmes Unit (CAAAPU), Cameron McGill.
“To be up front about it, we haven’t even had those discussions as yet with the NT Government,” he said this morning. “We’re not even at that stage of consultation.”
The NT Government has announced it will not be building its own mandatory rehabilitation facilities, which was a key promise ahead of the elections on August last year, but will shift the task mostly to non-government organisations.
A media release put out this afternoon by Alcohol Rehabilitation Minister Robyn Lambley quotes CAAAPU chief executive, Philip Allnutt, as saying an initial 25 bed pilot program should be conducted “with comprehensive evaluation before expanding to further beds.”
Mr Allnutt is also quoted as saying that “adequate after care” for clients is important. After care is also the focus of comments made by Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory CEO, John Paterson: “What happens to people after their 12 weeks inside, when all the evidence tells us that 12 weeks is nowhere near enough to effect long term change?”
CAAAPU (pictured), in Ragonesi Road just south of The Gap, currently has room for 29 “clients” and the annual budget is $2.8m, about 60% from Canberra and the rest from NT Government programs. Its programs are limited to two months.
CAAAPU (unlike AMSANT) has a policy in support of mandatory rehabilitation, as it is supportive of “any program that helps Aborigjnal people,” says Mr McGill.
“We are every much a neutral party in terms of policies and discussion around alcohol misuse in Alice Springs.
“We’re an on the ground, helping people type of organisation.”
NEWS: Would CAAAPU have the facilities to confine people against their will if referred by a court or a government instrumentality, would it have the fences and the guards to stop them from escaping?
McGILL: We do have clients referred to us from the justice system, and they stay with us for up to eight weeks.
NEWS: There have been suggestions in the past that people come and go as they please, and alcohol is being passed though holes in the fence. Is this so?
McGILL: I cannot comment about the past but since the advent of our new CEO, Philip Allnutt, and change of guard in our board and governance, the processes in CAAAPU have tightened up significantly to what it was three to four years ago.
NEWS: Are you now capable of confining people against their will?
McGILL: Initially CAAAPU has been about self-referral. The move into mandatory rehabilitation is something new. As I said, it’s in the very early stages of negotiation and discussion, how it’s going to work and the whole implementation of it.
Mr McGill says the present capacity is 20 men, soon to be 26, and nine women and their children. Most of the self referral clients stay for the full eight weeks program. Those referred by the justice system “have to stay the whole eight weeks”. The occupancy rate on average is 70% to 90%, he says.
NEWS: Are there people who sneak out prematurely?
McGILL: If there is any absconding at all, they go straight back to Corrections, it becomes a Corrections issue then. At the moment our absconding rate is extremely low.
NEWS: What is the recidivism rate?
McGILL: If we can help a person who wants to come back to CAAAPU then we will.
By ERWIN CHLANDA