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  27 March 2014

Join us in a national conversation:

Smarter about drugs -  What do young Australians think?

Young Australians have most to gain or lose from good or bad illicit drug policy or practice, as most Australians who ever go on to use illicit drugs start in their teens or early 20s. But somehow young Australians are rarely asked what they think about these issues.
Dr Alex Wodak AM, Austraia21 Director

Australia21 is committed to providing opportunities for young people to speak up about the issues that affect them and their future. Illicit drug policy is such an issue. Read on to find out  how you can contribute to "Smarter about drugs" - a new project.designed to stimulate discussion and  hear the voices of young people about  illicit drugs.

The project is the brain child of  Australia21 Director, Deb Lavis and originates in Adelaide, but has national reach. Deb is a film maker and we intend to produce a "Smarter about drugs" film of this two-part project as a conversation starter for schools, youth groups and parent groups around Australia.

Why is illicit drug policy important for all, but especially young Australians?
  • Young Australians have most to gain or lose from good or bad policy, as most Australians who ever go on to use illicit drugs start in their teens or early 20s.
  • Young Australians will be around a lot longer than the rest of the community, and it is mostly young Australians who suffer the huge health and social costs in the future if things go terribly wrong.
  • Use of alcohol and drugs by young Australians is often in the news and parents worry about the way that their kids might use alcohol and drugs.
  • Schools are often expected by the community to ‘fix the problem’, but often have few resources to do so.
  • Young Australians are rarely asked what they think about these issues.
The 'Smarter about drugs' project
Australia21 is partnering with the Ted Noffs Foundation and the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre  (the Hawke Centre) at the University of South Australia to conduct a "Smarter about Drugs" workshop for young  people on  the afternoon of 7 May at the Hawke Centre. It will be followed by a  panel discussion for parents, teachers and young people in the evening with live streaming of questions and comments from around Australia.
Both events will be filmed.

About the workshop
The workshop will offer young people an opportunity to consider drug policy and their own experiences alongside a panel of leading thinkers in this field. During the workshop a vox populi segment will be filmed on why young people take drugs, which will be shown to start the evening event.  

About the panel discussion in the evening
Along with the audience, the panel  will consider questions such as   
  • Why do young people take drugs?
  • Why with all the skills, expertise and resources available to the police, is the war on drugs not won?
  • Why is treatment of addiction so difficult?
  • How can parents equip their children to deal with the potential hazards of illicit drugs?
Who are the experts who will support the project?
Expert advisers and panel members Include former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer AO APM,  Dr Alex Wodak AM, world expert on illicit drug policy and treatment, and Matt Noffs of the Ted Noffs Foundation which provides essential services for young people and their families who are experiencing drug and alcohol problems and related trauma. Its range of programs for young people is based on leading research, continually evaluated and government endorsed.


How can I be involved?
  • If you live in Adelaide, are in years 10-12 or at University, and would like to book a place at the workshop please contact us at
  • If you want to attend the evening interactive panel discussion in person please book at  the Hawke Centre site.
  • If you can't get to the Hawke Centre on May7 and would like to send in a  question for the panel or to provide a video question please contact We will select those questions which we think will be of most general interest to the audience.
  • We still need help to finance the film. To make a difference and have your name on the credits please click here to  donate.

Further reading
Australia21 has produced two evidence-based reports:
Australia21 is a small not for profit organisation which seeks to create new frameworks of understanding about the strategic issues facing us in the 21st century.
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