By ERWIN CHLANDA
Changes made under the special administration of CAAAPU seem set to have wide-ranging ramifications for NGOs receiving Federal funding to provide accredited and non-accredited training, putting a stop to clan-based empire building widely considered to be practiced.
The new CEO of the alcohol rehabilitation organisation, Pauline Reynolds, says there have been “improvements in its recruitment process which allows for a more formal process to be undertaken”.
Ms Reynolds says in the case of CAAAPU, official HR processes have been established where positions will be filled on the basis of merit selection.
“There is a correct way for things to be done,” she says. “Legislation is in place governed by Fair Work Australia which defines the recruitment process. There need to be a selection panel and referees, not ad hoc employment of people.”
The Alice Springs News Online is aware that here is much disquiet in Central Australia about families and clans gaining control over organisations, many with taxpayer-supplied budgets in the millions, and filling the boards and work forces in line with family obligations: It seems there is now a precedent that can be applied to other groups.
Ms Reynolds says the process of establishing a new CAAAPU board is currently underway.
“Ideally we will have a new board by June 30 so that the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) can hand back the group to the community.”
That board will need to include members with relevant business qualifications.
Ms Reynolds says the organisation was insolvent, “but through the administration process and with the assistance of the funding bodies the corporation will be able to pay its debts when they fall due”.
She says it had become clear the corporation was under-performing in many respects.
“Especially, it had failed to obtain joint working arrangements with local organisations operating in the field and these links have now been re-established, including the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS), Relationships Australia, Steps, Salvos, Congress, Inkintja (a part of Congress), Alukura and the local hospital.
“Lots of external organisations are returning to CAAAPU to provide support to our clients where they had been previous cancelled or withdrawn,” she says.
In just four months this has resulted in a network of care for clients which extends six months beyond the admission of clients to the CAAAPU campus on Ragonesi Road.
“We now make sure discharged patients are not just left on the street. This is essential to reducing rebounding back and forward.”
The size of the operation – not the budget – has been increased significantly: There are now 20 instead of 10 beds for men in the section for voluntary admissions, self-referred or sent from the hospital.
There is no requirement for them to stay and all residential rehabilitation clients are voluntary.
There has been not a single referral for methamphetamine users.
The program runs for eight weeks and is 90% full. All clients except one man are Aboriginal.
Ms Reynolds says regrettably there is no funding of beds for women in that section: “This is a very big problem around town.”
The operation’s section to which clients are referred by the Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Tribunal has 10 beds each for men and women. Currently there are five men and three women in that section whose program runs for 12 weeks.
The term “mandatory” is clearly flexible: Absconding – over the fence or during excursions into town – occurs infrequently but it does. Police will take clients back to CAAAPU but there are no sanctions. The measure was decriminalised last year.
Is there duplication of services? Ms Reynolds does not think so.
She says the hospital’s 185 beds are full all the time. There would simply not be enough space for alcohol and drug rehabilitation of the 33 people currently at CAAAPU.
CAAAPU and Congress work hand-in-hand for ongoing care: Neither could provide holistic care without the other, she says.
CAAAPU’s money comes from the NT Health Department and the Department of the Prime Minister. Quarterly performance reports for each of the funding bodies are submitted.
The funds are tied to specific uses and cannot be transferred from one to the other – hence, for example, no beds for self-referred women.
What is the taxpayer’s Return on Investment? That’s a hard question, says Ms Reynolds.
After care programs have been established recently and there are no useful data on the past performance and success rate of the organisation in regards after care.
“Across the world relapses occur. We don’t expect people to stop drinking instantly.
“Education and support to encourage people to drink in a way that is not dangerous, and in a way that doesn’t put their and other people’s safety at risk, is paramount. Many people worldwide attend rehabilitation programmes many times before reaching abstinence,” she says.
Although in operation for 25 years, it is unclear how many clients exited CAAAPU to a steady job.
Ms Reynold says the official definition of a desirable level of alcohol consumption is no grog three days a week, and two standard drinks a day during the rest.
No doubt that would be the end of the world as they know it to the Bloody Great Drinkers of the Northern Territory – black and white.
PHOTOS courtesy of CAAAPU: Woodwork, needlework, leather craft, literacy and numeracy training are offered to the residents. Some are eight-week accredited courses offered by CDU.
By ERWIN CHLANDA