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The context for Drua: The Pasifika addictions network

By Philip Siataga, co-chair, Drua

Drua logo. The way the world can get high has changed significantly. Growing and supporting innovative and culturally relevant pathways to wellbeing are at the forefront of our vision for Pasifika families to live free from drug and gambling related harm. A synthetic cannabis black market has emerged and the recent tragedies associated with its use have again drawn more public and professional attention. The public conversation and ongoing calls for reforms in our drug legislation are part of the solution; and engaging more Pasifika people in this conversation is vital.  

Access to services is a perennial problem and our health and social service systems need to continue to strive for better solutions. Pasifika people are also less likely than those in the general population to seek or receive help for addiction related problems (Matua Raki, 2011). The latest routine mental health and addiction data from 2010-2011 (Ministry of Health, 2014) and more recent Auckland-wide data (Steenhuisen and Galea, 2014) suggests that two-thirds of the Pasifika population who may require addiction related support are not accessing addiction services. While people may be receiving addiction support via other services (for example social services) it does indicate there are major addiction service access and utilisation concerns (Siataga, 2014). 

Drua’s commitment has spanned policy, public health and treatment issues, including workforce development. Over the past 12 years the network has presented submissions to the Law Commission on alcohol reform, and the Parliamentary Health Select Committee preceding the eventual establishment of the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act 2012. This brought us more visibly into the public conversation. Drua supported the current co-chair to contribute and open the United Nations General Assembly Special Session – a world NGO forum which assessed the value of the war of drugs as a failed experiment and called on countries to take more humane and health focused approaches. 

Drua has also:

  • worked with DAPAANZ to support key note Pasifika speakers for the Cutting Edge Conferences
  • supported Le Va to produce resources such as the Inu Ora alcohol factsheets in three languages – Samoan, Tongan and Cook Island (at a time when investment into translations of key resources from mainstream was waning significantly)
  • recently reviewed a new addiction sector resource – Bridging the Gap (Matua Raki, 2017). 

This year’s Growing Pacific Solutions satellite seminars are another fantastic opportunity to gather, encourage, refresh and present what is most important to us Pasifika styles. We also acknowledge the support the addiction leaders from DAPAANZ and Matua Raki have provided again this year for helping create these moments that inspire us and move us forward together. There is a storm of drug harm in our communities, much of it hidden from mainstream, and for those of us working in the field we know we are well immersed in. Alcohol related harm is prevalent and services are stretched, and our Pasifika addiction workforce is numerically small. However, Pasifika peoples in our networks are resourceful, creative, and Le Va continues to provide significant inspiration that encourages future success. 

‘Addiction is everybody’s business’ is a message we wholeheartedly support. Growing prevention strategies in public health, utilising community action approaches, and sharing the success of projects in these events matters. We aim to do more of what matters most. 

More information about the Drua Pasifika Addictions Network.

About the Author: Philip Siataga

Philip Siataga.

Philip Siataga is the proud father of two wonderful daughters. He is a member of Le Tautua Pacific leadership programme alumni and has an extensive background in the mental health and addictions sector. He provides supervision, has been a counsellor, and is a social scientist-researcher and educator. He is currently a CAYAD (community action youth and drugs) coordinator in a public health role with St John of God – Waipuna, and managing several drug harm prevention projects in education and community. He is the co-chair of Drua Pasifika Addictions Network; the chairperson of CANMET (Canterbury Music Education Trust); a board member of the Youth Hub Trust; a board member for Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support; and a member of  the Health Promotion Agency’s Pasifika Advisory Group.

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