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Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge Addictions Conference

Looking back, moving forward

Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge Addictions Conference

Cordis Hotel, Auckland (Sept 19-`21)

The role trauma, especially childhood trauma, plays in developing addiction to substances and unhealthy behaviours is the focus of the 2019 Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge conference which opens on Thursday September, 19 in Auckland.

Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge conference is run annually by Dapaanz, New Zealand’s professional association for people working in addictions. It attracts internationally renowned speakers and around 600 people working in addiction treatment.

“Trauma has a huge impact on the developing child," says DAPAANZ Executive Director, Sue Paton.

"There is extensive evidence that it increases the risk of poor physical and mental health, including addiction, in adults and can have an inter generational impact on a range of other social problems,”

Data gathered over two decades for the United States Adverse Childhood Experiences Study*(ACE Study*) confirms the predominant role that trauma plays in addiction and suggests ways addiction can be better managed and prevented in the first place.

One of the world’s most prominent ACE experts, Washington based researcher and community development practitioner, Laura Porter, is speaking at the conference.

“We used to talk about ‘nurture verses nature’ but now we understand more about how nature and nurture interact and how experience shapes the human brain and body.

This has profound implications for our understanding and treatment of addiction, how we respond to stress, our risk for disease and injury, and how we relate to ourselves and the world around us,” she says.

For the last 17 years Ms Porter has collaborated with more than forty First Nations, poor inner-city black communities and impoverished white rural communities, using ACE data to help solve complex problems and help people to shift to new, healthier ways of working and living day-by-day with others.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD) expert and Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health Care at Sydney University School of Medicine, Professor Elizabeth Elliott, has also used her academic and professional experience to collaborate with people making positive changes in disadvantaged communities.

Her decade long work alongside women in remote Western Australian Aboriginal communities beset by entrenched, inter-generational heavy drinking has been successful in educating parents, lessening alcohol use in pregnancy in those communities and providing people with FASD with appropriate clinical and social support.

“The Aboriginal women I worked with led the way in raising awareness of FASD among all Australians. They’re very brave to raise the issue publicly because alcohol abuse has been used to stigmatize aboriginal communities in Australia for far too long,” she says.

Professor Elliott is responsible for Australia's Guide to the Diagnosis of FASD. She also an advocate for evidence-based policies to minimise harm from alcohol.

“Despite progress, we have significant challenges in preventing alcohol use in pregnancy and FASD and building capacity for FASD diagnosis and management. FASD prevention requires political will to challenge the alcohol industry and implement evidence-based policies to minimise alcohol harms,” she says.

Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge conference attracts local as well as international experts to Auckland to discuss the approaches to the treatment and prevention of addiction. Many of these go way beyond strictly therapeutic or clinical programmes and are important pillars of positive social and economic change in different communities.

Tāa moko artist, Mark Kopua (Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Porou), holds the position of Tohunga for Te Kūwatawata, a ground-breaking, Māori-designed mainstream mental health service. He and social worker Matiu Pennell will be talking about their therapeutic model which emphasizes Maori kaupapa and the strengths of whānau who may not have professional qualifications, to help heal people with addictions and mental health challenges.

Mark and his wife, psychiatrist Diana Kopua (Ngāti Porou), have founded ‘Te Kurahuna’,a whare wānanga (training institute) where practitioners learn indigenous knowledge in a unique and authentic way, including Mahi a Atua. The model developed out of Mark’s experiences working with tā moko clients .

“Many of them opened up to me and talked about their lives and their problems while I was working with them. We could connect on levels of whakapapa and manakitanga,” he says.

Other speakers at Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge include:

• Deborah Peterson Small, a lawyer, social justice activist and recognized leader in the US drug policy reform movement. She has been a major catalyst in engaging communities of colour and their leaders to address the negative impacts of the war on drugs in their communities.

• Dr Hinemoa Elder, a member of the Prime Minister’s Science Advisor’s Cannabis Panel, will discuss issues pertinent to the cannabis referendum from the perspectives of working with whānau, and documented evidence in the context of mental health with a particular focus on Māori.

• Maraea Robb and Tama Davis who will be talking about trauma from a Ngati Whatua (tangata whenua) perspective and what it takes to support whānau affected by addictions.

• Richie Hardcore, is a former community alcohol and drug worker and now works as a group facilitator with men in court-ordered anti-violence programmes. Richie speaks about his own lived experience and his professional work in mental health and addiction and the role of gendered identities in inter-partner violence.

Sue Paton says that the variety of speakers and topics covered in his years Te Toka Tu Moana - Cutting Edge conference reflects the fact that addiction is an urgent issue that affects all sectors of our society.

“Addiction requires a wide range of, compassionate, health orientated responses including harm reduction, early intervention, peer support and community and residential services.

Problematic drug use is a health issue and resourcing it appropriately greatly reduces harm."

More details on all speakers at the Cutting Edge Addictions Conference can be found here

the full conference programme is here

*NB: The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) is a research study conducted by the U.S. health maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1] Participants were recruited to the study between 1995 and 1997 and have been in long-term follow up for health outcomes. The study has demonstrated an association of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) (aka childhood trauma) with health and social problems across the lifespan. The study has produced many scientific articles and conference and workshop presentations that examine ACEs.[1]


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