Government Defunds NFP Drug Council
26 November 2013 at 4:34 pm
Funding for the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) – the national peak body representing organisations and workers in the sector- has been axed by the Coalition Government, making it the latest casualty in the new government’s austerity drive.
The ADCA was notified yesterday of the decision to cut core funding for its day to day operations and individual projects.
This follows announcements that the Coalition Government will also be “winding down” the operations of the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).
As a consequence, the ADCA Board decided last night to put the organisation into voluntary administration.
“The government’s decision is a devastating blow to the sector and undermines years of work to minimise alcohol and other drug-related harm across the Australian community. It effectively erases decades of corporate knowledge – and leaves the sector without representation at a national level,” ADCA Chair Dr Mal Washer said.
ADCA has been funded continuously as the national peak for almost 50 years.
In a statement on the cut, a spokesman for Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash said the Rudd-Gillard government had left behind a projected net debt of $200 billion and a Coalition Government has had to review the funding of a number of organisations.
He said the Coalition Government seeked advice on alcohol and drugs policy from wide-ranging sources in the sector and funds a number of national peak body organisations.
“In 46 years, this is the only government that has decided it can do without ADCA’s advice,” the organisation’s patron, Professor Ian Webster said.
ADCA’s National Drug Sector Information Service, a repository of nearly 100,000 AOD resources, will effectively shut down as a result.
“This is one of the world’s most comprehensive AOD library services which has been accessed for years by other libraries and individuals worldwide. Its contribution to clinical practice and professional development is inestimable,” ADCA Vice President Professor Alison Ritter said.
Projects and services that will be affected by the funding cut include:
- Drug Action Week, which for 16 years has allowed communities Australia wide to raise awareness and commemorate those working to reduce AOD harm – and the associated National Drug and Alcohol Awards;
- The National Inhalants Information Service, the first central online information source for volatile substance misuse;
- The Register of Australian Drug and Alcohol Research; and,
- Drugfields, a new project designed to encourage and support workforce development.
“Each of these is highly significant to research, awareness and the sector’s future workforce,” Prof Webster said.
“Workforce sustainability must rank as one of the most important issues of our time – regardless of the sector.
“The government needs to reconsider its shortsighted decision. Every day, media outlets are full of stories of AOD related violence, crime, the disadvantaged, homelessness and poverty. The cost to the community is crippling, yet governments seem oblivious to it.
“One major group affected by serious AOD-related harm is our first Australians. The Prime Minister wants to be a Prime Minister for Aboriginal Australia. He needs to understand how this decision will further alienate the peoples he claims he wants to represent.”
Australian Greens health spokesperson Dr Richard Di Natale said that the Abbott Government’s defunding of the ADCA was an attempt to stymie debate about illicit drug policy.
“The Abbott Government is determined to hide evidence, sideline experts and silence advocates,” Senator Di Natale, a former drug and alcohol clinician, said.
“First Tony Abbott closed the Climate Commission because it wants to hide the truth about climate change.
“It is defunding the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia because it wants to stifle any debate about drug law reform.
“The Coalition is breaking another election promise by making cuts to the health budget. Frighteningly, axing the ACDC could herald just the beginning of funding cuts, with the sector losing its peak body and front line of defence.”