Tool kit to help new migrants prevent alcohol harm

CONGOLESE community leader Clement Saidi has implored decision makers in his adopted homeland to invest in alcohol-harm prevention for the sake of displaced African families resettling in the Hunter.

An emotional Mr Saidi spoke on Monday about the dreadful impact alcohol was having in Central Africa at the launch of a new guide to ensure community groups and health organisations are better equipped to help and educate African families on drug and alcohol abuse.

The ‘‘tool kit’’, entitled Confident Communities: a guide to working together with African communities to reduce alcohol-related harms, was produced by Newcastle’s Multicultural Community Drug Action Team with help from the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre.

The guide, launched at the Ethnic Communities Council of Newcastle and Hunter at Waratah, suggests recognising the diversity of African culture, building relationships with community leaders and understanding the stigma of alcohol use among several other keys to tackle the problem.

‘‘We don’t want our children to start to abuse alcohol, we must be careful because it will destroy our bodies and our minds,’’ Mr Saidi said. ‘‘Our health is our power.

‘‘We need to start to talk about the issue and get education so we can build a future for the next generation and give them our legacy. Our community needs to know the dangers of taking alcohol and drugs. It can trouble you and your mind.’’

Hunter Multicultural Community Drug Action Team chairman Tony Brown said often dislocated refugees can feel isolated and vulnerable when settling into Australia.

‘‘This tool kit helps bridge that gap,’’ Mr Brown said. ‘‘Its primary focus is on prevention and ensuring people engage with these communities and do so with an understanding and cultural sensitivity. It’s about working with them rather than imposing solutions.’’

Developed after consultations with 48 men and women from six African communities between October and December 2013, the guide is designed to help community groups, health services, and other organisations who deal with people who have migrated from Africa to Australia since the early 1990s.

The guide says there are ‘‘no population-wide studies that have recorded rates of alcohol-related harms across African communities living in Australia’’ and research suggests there may be lower rates of drinking among some African sub-groups compared to the general public.

However, it states that alcohol-related harms are an issue of concern in some African communities and research has identified alcohol is used to cope with settlement stresses, the inability to find work and young people experiencing difficulty with schooling.

The guide was funded by the Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education as part of a 2013 grants program. Newcastle has been at the forefront of alcohol-harm reduction programs and began lock-out laws to curb alcohol-fuelled violence in 2008.

Clement Saidi. Picture: Peter Stoop, Newcastle Herald
Clement Saidi. Picture: Peter Stoop, Newcastle Herald

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Newcastle Herald