REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: When the reality is a blindingly stark one

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM digital news editor Janine Graham.

Sometimes you have to read sentences not once, not twice, but over and over.

Try this one: "In one week in Armidale alone, we had nine referrals come through for young people; a nine-year-old was one."

OK then, seems innocuous enough.

What about this one: "Firstly, we can't service people under 10, and secondly, we're only funded for the Tamworth region, so we can't service someone in Armidale."

Right, so the rules are the rules.

But now for the context.

These sentences came one after the other. At hearings of the Special Commission of inquiry into the drug ice.

A nine-year-old on ice?

Sophie Harris reported those words and very many more in the Moree Champion, after the commission stopped by the northern NSW town last week.

As if reference to nine-year-old's using isn't enough to highlight the seriousness of the problem, The Champion also reported the local council was keen for a safe injecting room.

Why? Well, not just so users are in a moderately controlled, safer environment but so its workers don't get needlestick injuries dealing with waste.

And sadly, there were probably few support workers surprised when the inquiry was told Aboriginal families were reluctant to report drug use for fear their children will be taken away.

Similarly tragic experiences have been recounted across the state as hearings have been held in Maitland in the Hunter region, Nowra on the state's south coast, the central west city of Dubbo, Broken Hill and Sydney.

No doubt every state and territory across the nation could hold similar inquiries. Or perhaps take heed of Belinda Unmack.

She's a recovering ice addict and, after explaining her situation, told the Warnnambool Standard simply and emphatically: "Don't try it - not even once."

And although reporter Annie Lewis doesn't suggest you try this, it could be worth a shot - just ask Robyn Mildren.

DONE AND DUSTED: Brianna and Jarryd Mildren in their mum's secretly renovated house. Photo: Emma Hillier

DONE AND DUSTED: Brianna and Jarryd Mildren in their mum's secretly renovated house. Photo: Emma Hillier

The Daily Advertiser told the tale of the Wagga mum, stricken by cancer, who returned home after surgery to an enormous surprise.

Her son Jarryd, and his enterprising, empathetic mates, renovated the house his mum hadn't quite managed to renovate.

And it's about now the Pollyanna Principle kicks in. That's the human tendency to focus on the positive.

How can you not hope those nine-year-olds reach 10; that Belinda Unmack continues her recovery and that Robyn Mildren enjoys her home for many years to come?

Of course there are hurdles, enormous ones and, yes, some of their own making. But, that's the stark reality of real Australia.

Janine Graham

Digital News Editor, Australian Community Media

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