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July 31, 2015

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says the community can work together to win the battle against ice.

Speaking at a community forum in Bairnsdale this week, Mr Chester said the formation of the National Ice Taskforce, led by former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, was an indication that the Federal Government was taking the issue seriously.

“There are no easy solutions and no silver bullets but by working together with police and the community, we can win this battle,” Mr Chester told the forum.

“We have leaders in our community from all walks of life determined to help. There’s an old saying, ‘leaders are dealers in hope’ but the people who sell this stuff to our kids are dealers in misery. We are better than they are and we have to remain relentlessly positive that a community-based response can have success.

“This is not just a problem for police or governments to solve – it is a problem for us all and we need to muster all the passion, determination, experience and energy from tonight’s forum and be determined to make a difference in our communities.”

Mr Chester thanked Bairnsdale Football-Netball Club secretary Bernie Eastman and AFL East Gippsland for facilitating the forum and congratulated Mr Lay for his forthright address.

“It is great to have a Gippslander with vast policing experience and knowledge of a difficult social issue preparing the federal government response to ice,” Mr Chester said.

“Ken doesn’t sugar-coat the fact that this is a marathon and we won’t solve the problem in five minutes, or even five years, but we have to take the next step and work together as a community.

“My view is we need to support the police in their enforcement and prevention activities while also raising awareness and providing better access to health and rehabilitation services for local people affected by ice and other illicit drugs.

“We need access to rehabilitation services closer to our homes where we can support our loved ones who are addicted. This drug does not discriminate – it is crossing socio-economic barriers and we have young people from all walks of life caught up in a spiral of dependency.

“The huge turnout to the ice forum proves there is an appetite in our community for more information and determination to get on top of the problem.”

Gippsland East State MP Tim Bull said the large attendance reflected the importance of the topic discussed.

“To get that sort of turn out in Bairnsdale in the middle of winter is outstanding and shows that the entire community wants to find solutions,” Mr Bull said.

“The feedback I’ve had since the forum has been extraordinarily positive and we will now start advancing some of the ideas and initiatives raised. I look forward to meeting with the East Gippsland Ice Prevention Taskforce to discuss their proposed initiatives.”



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