Drug court, rehab push continues: inquiry to hear evidence at Dubbo

Service need: Barrister and Dubbo councillor Stephen Lawrence intends to give evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry when it holds a hearing at Dubbo. File photo.
Service need: Barrister and Dubbo councillor Stephen Lawrence intends to give evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry when it holds a hearing at Dubbo. File photo.

Western NSW is stepping up efforts to push for a drug court and rehabilitation services.

Dubbo Regional Council and organisations representing legal practice in the region are among those to take the matter to the state’s legislators.

A NSW Parliamentary inquiry is underway into the provision of drug rehabilitation services in regional, rural and remote New South Wales and is scheduled to come to Dubbo in May.

Dubbo Regional Council highlighted the area generally did not have either adequate numbers of beds or appropriate access to rehabilitation facilities or withdrawal facilities in its submission to the inquiry.

It told the committee a drug court was considered by the council to be “a significant tool in the bid to reduce both crime and intergenerational disadvantage”.

The Central West Cooperative Legal Service Delivery (CLSD) Partnership, a Dubbo-based coalition of legal and non-legal service providers, submitted its partners had for years been “frustrated” by the lack of drug and alcohol detoxification and residential rehabilitation facilities available in the region.

This week the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) NSW/ ACT gave evidence to the inquiry, saying community feedback strongly showed there were insufficient rehabilitation services for Aboriginal people seeking treatment.

It’s a shared desire by all NSW citizens to see investment in communities that provide environments for families to be nurtured and supported to raise strong, resilient and healthy children and young people.

Michael Higgins from the Aboriginal Legal Service

ALS regional community engagement manager Michael Higgins told the committee that without adequate rehabilitation and diversionary programs, Aboriginal people “ended up engaged with the criminal justice system, while their families suffer”.

“It’s a shared desire by all NSW citizens to see investment in communities that provide environments for families to be nurtured and supported to raise strong, resilient and healthy children and young people,” Mr Higgins said.

Barrister and Dubbo Regional Councillor Stephen Lawrence along with five fellow councillors, and relevant council staff, are part of a committee looking at the establishment of a drug court, residential rehabilitation centre, and other initiatives.

On Wednesday he said the ALS had broad experience in representing people whose criminal offending was related to drug addiction.

“I would certainly hope their views are given serious consideration by the inquiry and I am sure they will be,” he said.

Cr Lawrence reiterated the case for the services.

“The link between crime and unaddressed drug addiction is an important reason why our region needs to move towards enhanced rehabilitation services particularly a residential centre,” he said.

“When courts sentence people they take into account a range of factors including their risk of reoffending. “Drug rehabilitation services can help people to engage in meaningful rehabilitation efforts that allows them to then argue to the court that they are a safer prospect for the community.

“But if the crime requires jail sentences notwithstanding then that is what should happen.”

Cr Lawrence said he looked forward to giving evidence to the inquiry when it visited Dubbo on May 9.

“I have personally seen the effects of proper rehabilitation programs, including in my previous role as principal solicitor of ALS in western NSW,” he said.

“I have run into clients down the track after sentence and seem them living meaningful lives contributing to society and not offending.

“Whatever one's personal views about sentencing that is the end result we all want.”