Moree ice inquiry: Aboriginal families reluctant to reveal drug use for fear children will be taken

Moree Community Services Centre (CSC) casework child protection/triage manager Binnie Carter.
Moree Community Services Centre (CSC) casework child protection/triage manager Binnie Carter.

Aboriginal families are reluctant to report drug use for fear their children will be taken away, the ice inquiry in Moree heard.

The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug 'Ice' heard that the fear of children being taken away from their families stems from the intergenerational trauma inflicted during the Stolen Generation and the old welfare days.

"There's times that we might go into a home and people still refer to use as 'the welfare', so there is a fear that if they do disclose to us, that we're just going to pick their children up and leave that day with them," Moree Community Services Centre (CSC) casework child protection/triage manager Binnie Carter said while giving evidence on Thursday.

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Of the 60 to 80 Risk of Significant Harm (ROSH) reports the Moree CSC receives on families each month, around half mention drug use of some kind, by both parents and children.

Ms Carter said they've received reports of children aged between 12 and 17 using drugs, which is impacting "their anti-social behaviour and the choices they're making".

In the situations where parents are using drugs, Ms Carter said children's needs are significantly impacted.

"[Parents are unable] to meet the needs of their children, so that's meeting basic health needs, education needs, being able to provide a home for the children," she said.

In the cases where parents do disclose drug use, the Department of Communities and Justice recommend they enter into a 12-week drug testing program to ascertain the level and type of drug use so that they can help provide the best service for that family.

However, the closest drug testing facility is in Inverell, nearly 150km from Moree.

"In my time being in Moree [since 2016], we have not successfully completed a 12-week drug testing program, because of the travel associated with that," Ms Carter said.

"We're asking parents to commit to two to three times a week and it's random times, so we don't give 24 hours or 48 hours notice."

Ms Carter believes having a drug testing facility in Moree would see an increase of families take up the monitoring program.

"We would be able to work with the families, we'd know what we're working with, it's here," she said of the benefits of having a local facility.

"It's a big commitment for anybody to be away two to three times a week."