For more than 20 years, the Community Drug Action Team (CDAT) program has empowered people across New South Wales to provide local responses to local needs around alcohol and other drugs. With 60 CDATs all over the state, volunteers are able to make a difference in their communities.
"It's about education, it's about awareness. It's not about judgment. It's about how can we help? How can we have a broader, less awkward conversation around alcohol and other drugs?" said CDAT program manager Gail Easton. "What we guide them to do and what we encourage them to do is have a look at the harms and the issues impacting on communities and ways that we can inject some primary prevention measures to support communities to address these issues and minimize and reduce the harms that are associated with drug and alcohol use."
About the CDAT program
CDAT projects vary by community, and are supported by grants of up to $7000 from the program, which is funded by the NSW Ministry of Health and run by the Community, Engagement and Connection Consortium (CECC) led by Odyssey House in collaboration with Karralika Programs, Bila Muuji Aboriginal Corporation Health Service and The Buttery. Community development officers are available across the state to help the volunteer teams form and implement projects.
"Our community development officers are having those conversations and really strengthening that sense of trust, of how communities can improve the situations and educate the people within their space and to embrace and encourage more people to have those conversations in a safe and meaningful way that is respectful for everybody affected by drugs and alcohol," Easton said. "It is all around trust – it's about knowing who they can contact, where there's reputable information that doesn't put them at peril for taking action or for having conversations."
Volunteers from different CDATs also get together at regional forums to share ideas and collaborate on regional action plans. This might mean a focus on youth prevention programs, maternal health campaigns or warning older people of the potential dangers of prescription drugs. The program provides CDATs with evidence-based information that the volunteers can then use to help educate their communities.
"The activities actually come from the issues that are recognised within the communities that we work with," Easton said. "There's a plethora of information and opportunity and activity that CDATs do right across New South Wales."
Read about news and highlights from different CDATs.
In addition to the incredible value of the volunteers' time and efforts, having educational programs conceived and delivered by locals has its own benefits. Not only are the initiatives being driven by members of the community, but their presence means they are more trusted than an outsider might be, and extensive social networks expand the potential reach of the programs.
CDATs can also help raise awareness of emerging issues throughout their communities, if there is something of particular concern happening that people might not be aware of, new research or new support options for those seeking help.
CDATs often collaborate with local libraries, non-government organisations and local health districts.
How to get involved
People looking to make a positive difference in their community can learn more about the program and how to get involved – whether that's forming a new CDAT, joining an existing team or helping out casually – at nswcdat.org.au/get-involved. Questions can be directed to Easton at firstname.lastname@example.org.