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6 Mar. 2022

MEDIA RELEASE: Alcohol and other drug programs across NT face closure from looming $3m cut in Federal funding

March 2022: A significant number of the Territory’s already under-resourced alcohol and other drug (AOD) services face closure or radical cuts to their services in the wake of the Federal Government’s failure to guarantee $3m in funding.

The $3 million in funding is part of the $60m annual funding for the National Ice Action Strategy (NIAS). The program and its funding is due to cease on 30 June 2022. 

“The potential of a cut to funding for an already cash-strapped sector that is dealing with extremely high rates of alcohol and drug issues in a population with large numbers of vulnerable individuals is devastating,” the executive officer of the Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies NT, Peter Burnheim, said
“The Territory can’t afford any backward steps in our attempt to address what have become endemic, and often inter-generational, struggles with substance use.
“The Northern Territory’s alcohol and other drug treatment sector works tirelessly in the context of an overwhelming need for services, with unmatched client complexity, and with a scarcity of sufficient resourcing to do our work. To have our funding threatened, in the midst of a pandemic that has already placed considerable further strain on services, is a real slap in the face.”

The 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that the NT experiences rates of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use considerably higher than the national average. 19.6% of NT residents reported using an illicit drug in the twelve months prior to the study (national average 16.4%), while tobacco use was found to be at 14.7% (national average 11.0%).
The cost impact of alcohol alone in the NT was estimated in 2015/16 as $1,386.8 million equating to $7577.94 per adult. This is far higher than any other jurisdiction in Australia.
Mr Burnheim said the reduction of funding provided to the alcohol and other drug treatment sector through the NIAS would have severely detrimental impacts on the delivery of treatment services for Territorians.
The funding provides the only dedicated methamphetamine treatment programs in the Territory as well as a significant investment into the NT’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program that delivers culturally-tailored health services to the Northern Territory’s large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population across largely remote geographical locations. Delaying the confirmation of this funding would have serious flow on effects to the continuity of service delivery and would also risk the loss of skilled staff from a sector which already suffers from significant difficulties in recruitment and retention.
AADANT is calling on the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to immediately confirm continuation of this vital funding and to significantly increase funding to the drug and alcohol sector to meet the ongoing and increasing demand for these important services.
Note to media: There are services that will be impacted by this funding cut that are willing to speak to the media – Please contact Peter Burnheim for connection.
Peter Burnheim is available for interview
Media Contact:  
Peter Burnheim
0429 901 370