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Fifth national CAYAD hui, Wellington - Anderton

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

Progressive Leader

12 November 2007 Speech
Fifth national CAYAD hui, Wellington

Tena koutou katoa.

It’s good to see you all here.

This is the fifth national hui of this type, and I think I’ve been to them all as minister in charge of the Government’s drug policy.

This year’s is timely.

I would like to quote to you from last week’s New Zealand Herald.
It headlined a story “Children aged 7 hooked on cannabis.”

And if seven year olds are the rare exception, it is certainly true that addiction agencies are regularly seeing primary school children smoking cannabis.

The Herald said New Zealand has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the developed world.

A psychiatrist talked about seeing young people who started smoking cannabis as young as eleven years old.

And the experts quoted in that story went on to say that, of course, you don’t just get one drug used on its own.

Where there is cannabis being used, there is likely to be alcohol also being used.

These are children we are talking about.

We have heard some pretty serious allegations in New Zealand in recent weeks. Words like terrorism have been used.

However that turns out, and as serious as any charges might be, it is startling to me that we don’t have the same alarmed response as a community to a real and present threat - a threat that is already here and already harming young people.

That threat is alcohol and drug abuse.

Why aren’t we up in arms about the prevalence of alcohol and drugs in our communities?

Why aren’t the people who are protesting about the police arresting people for arms offences getting just as outraged about cannabis and alcohol taking their young people away?

There was a time when our community responded to drugs and alcohol by turning a blind eye. Ignoring the problem. And it just got worse and it wrecked lives and it wrecked communities.

And then there are those who think we can just crack down. More laws and more enforcement.

Well we do have a three-pronged approach of education, treatment and enforcement.

But the truth has always been that the problem is deeply rooted. The law alone can’t possibly deal with it.

The whole community has to accept responsibility. The whole community has to put its hand up and say, “this is not the future that we want for your young people.”

The whole community has to accept we have a problem and we can do something about it.

We can do it with new attitudes, and better approaches to the way our community handles young people.

And that is why CAYADs were first created.

They are the front line of communities doing their bit.

It’s been ten years since the first pilot CAYAD project was developed.
It was set up when there was a rare example at the time of people looking at what was going on in our community and saying, ‘who has a good idea?’ (This was back in the days when they used to look at a problem and say, ‘it can’t be a problem because the market would have fixed it by now if there was a problem.)

The Ministry of Education noticed more kids were being kicked out of school for drugs. More kids were using drugs. Alcohol misuse was spreading and more kids were getting caught up in it.
So they set up a partnership between mostly Maori community sites and researchers. From the beginning this was set up as a partnership between action and research.

Right from the start it had a focus on the local community taking action and taking responsibility for its own problems.

And right from the start the approach was one of evidence-based research and evaluation.

So they had a go at three projects up North and you know what they found? Attitudes began to change for the better. Young people, school and sports clubs were all changing their behaviour. Fewer kids were being suspended for drugs and youth crime. Community organisations were working together better on positive projects like jobs and training.

About this time I heard about these CAYADs, when I took over as minister in charge of drug policy, and my view has always been that if something is working we should do more of it.

So we set up another sixteen CAYADs around the country.

I went to one opening after another, and I know a lot of you from those openings.

We went into rural areas and urban areas, and we worked with public health teams, local councils and Maori organisations.

At each one we would have a cross section of officials from some of the major organisations there - like police and health, to talk about what the government was offering to the partnership,.

And at each opening I made the point that communities had to take responsibility for themselves.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the way one community after another has responded.

Today we have a total of 25 CAYADs.

And how do you think they’re doing?

(It’s important to spell out our successes, because I have some experience of people forgetting how far we have come. We set up a Jobs Machine in 2000, when unemployment was at seven percent - and in the high teens among Maori. Now unemployment is at its lowest level in over twenty years, more Kiwis than ever are in jobs, Maori unemployment is down to around seven percent, and in some parts of the country the skills shortages are so serious that they’re practically press-ganging passing tourists into jobs. But I keep finding commentators who say ‘the Jobs Machine didn’t work’. Hullo?)
Well we know how well CAYADs are doing, because they’ve been evaluated up, down, and sideways. There have been interviews and media coverage, and surveys of young people and other steps to find out what’s going on.

Research shows there is real progress in the way young people think about the acceptability of drugs and alcohol abuse and in their awareness of harm. There is positive progress on some of the important underlying factors, too, like relationships between young people and parents.

I’m pleased to see the ongoing focus on positive whanau responses, more involvement by parents and better community perception.

When researchers evaluated communities where CAYADs have been working they found young people knew more about harm from the use of amphetamine, marijuana and alcohol.

And I am pleased to see some evidence of changes to school policies, and decreases in drug-related suspensions.

The value of the CAYAD approach - of working together in partnership across the community - is epitomised in some of the quotes researchers are collecting, like the one that said: “I feel like we’re on the same waka, we’re going in the same broad direction”.

So where is that direction going next?

Last month the Ministry of Health gave the go-ahead to review and redevelop the CAYAD National Service Specification this month and next. The review process includes consultation with CAYAD Co-ordinators and Service Provider Organisations and Managers.

In the Budget this year we got $5.9 million for a four-year campaign to raise awareness about the risks of taking drugs.

It is just in the very early stages now, but I want CAYADs involved in developing the campaign.

The Budget also provides for an online evidence base that should be a great resource for CAYAD staff and for the broader alcohol and drug sector.

I want you to know I push very hard in Budget negotiations to get funding for these programmes. But I support them because CAYADs are an important part of efforts to reduce the harm caused to young people by drugs and alcohol.

It fits with other initiatives, like the National Drug Policy I launched earlier this year.

Young people and Maori are priorities in the National Drug Policy.
So the government will further support work in this area as government departments draw up their work plans and action plans.

Drug education has been given priority.

There are a lot of projects underway. Education and Ministry of Youth development officials, for example, have been working closely with school principals.

Funding has been approved for several research projects focusing on the relationship between youth and alcohol and drugs.

For example they are looking at building parent and caregiver's knowledge and skills around supplying alcohol to underage kids.

It’s looking at young pacific people and at the characteristics of Maori under 18 who don’t use.

What we are seeing overall is a more concerted and widespread effort for the government to do its bit.

CAYADs will always be in the front line, and I believe the government’s projects will provide some national support for CAYADs’ work.

CAYADs really are leading the way and they are a real inspiration in terms of what can be achieved through community action.

So I want to close by acknowledging and thanking you all for your work in this area.

These hui have proven to be a great opportunity to build on the work of CAYADs by sharing experiences and learning from your colleagues around the country.

So thank you, also, to Wellington CAYAD for your hospitality in hosting this event, and to Sally and Verne for inviting me back again this year and for organising this event.

I am proud of CAYADs and proud of their achievements.

And I wish you all every success in continuing your efforts in future.

ENDS

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