Letters to the editor: July 13

MAKING A STAND: Gunnedah GoCo's Kate Mackley, Cr Colleen Fuller, Gunnedah resident Judith Law, GSC Debra Hilton, and Drug Action Team chair, Cassie Aldridge.
MAKING A STAND: Gunnedah GoCo's Kate Mackley, Cr Colleen Fuller, Gunnedah resident Judith Law, GSC Debra Hilton, and Drug Action Team chair, Cassie Aldridge.

Help say no to drugs by joining walk

I am a passionate advocate for a number of causes. People associate me with my stand against Daylight Savings – but I am equally, if not more, passionate about ‘Saying No to Drugs’.

Just last week the Independent kindly published a letter from me which detailed my desire to see an annual ‘Say No to Drugs’ event in Gunnedah.

In today’s letter, I would like to explain a little more about how Gunnedah has supported such initiatives in the past and why I would like to see this event be successful.

I would begin by acknowledging the person that did most toward (in my opinion) bringing the scourge of drugs to public attention – Donald Mackay.

Mr Mackay lost his life 40 years ago this month, when he was murdered as a result of his stance against drugs in regional Griffith.

Because of his death many national, and regional, anti-drug movements began – with many organisations and associations being formed to promote the idea of saying “no” to drugs.

Gunnedah’s proactive stance arose from the ‘Year of the Family Initiative’ and the local Law and Order Committee raised in 1994.

Council, and people such as Pat Wilks, Peter Wilkins, Frank Robinson, Gary Turner, Ron McLean and the late Bill Clegg were key in raising awareness of the illicit drugs menacing our town, our families and, in particular, our children.

Under the Committee’s guidance, excellent initiatives occurred with speakers coming to Gunnedah to raise awareness to the drug issues in regional NSW.

Angela and Tony Wood, parents of ecstasy tablet victim Anna, regional anti-drugs campaigner Tony Dennison, Ken Marslew, founder of the ‘Enough is Enough’ anti-violence movement, and local campaigner Warren Woodley, as a representative of Australian Cities Against Drugs, came to the town to talk to citizens, including children, about the dangers of drugs.

A few years later, in the late 1990s, after one such event touched a nerve in locals, another more focused committee was formed, the Committee of Say No to Drugs.

This committee went from strength to strength under the guidance of Therese and John Kerr with their daughter Miranda being the ‘face’ of the movement.

However, in recent years, Gunnedah has gone a little quiet on the issue.

This is not to say the drug issues have been resolved (you just have to see the amount of used needles ending up at the local recycling depot to know that) but more that our small town has lost its voice on the issue.

It is for this reason that I am supporting the Council’s initiative in ‘Saying No to Drugs’ through the Walk Around Wolesley event.

The event will happen at 11am on 14 July, one day short of the 40 th anniversary of Donald Mackay’s death, and is a community event to raise awareness of the negative impact of illicit drug use in our community.

So, I am asking people to put their hand up – either as a family affected by drugs, or as users, or just as interested parties, and come to this event where information stalls will provide assistance and encouragement.

It is time that community members contribute to the discussion and tell us what is needed in the district to help combat the issue – because clearly the policy of minimal harm and minimal community involvement has failed.

With commitment, such an event can be made annual, allowing for discussion out in the open, as we try to work out a way to assist those in the community who are affected by drug use.

We need a way forward – and I hope that you will join the push to see this happen by saying ‘No to Drugs’ and joining us at Wolesley Oval on (Friday) the 15th of July at 11am.

Judith Law,