Jeff Amatto was still a teenager when his drug addiction was "at its best".
Mr Amatto, who grew up in Nanima Village outside Wellington, has spent years campaigning for more rehabilitation centres as the founder of More Cultural Rehabs, Less Jails.
On Tuesday night he addressed the Dubbo community as part of Dubbo Regional Council's question and answer panel on the need for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.
While he started using illegal drugs as a young teenager, Mr Amatto said he was about 17 or 18-years-old when his addiction was at its worst.
By 19 he was incarcerated.
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"Looking back at my life, there just wasn't the support I needed," Mr Amatto said.
"Jail should have been the last resort but the sad reality was it was the first choice from magistrates back then in Wellington. It was the easier choice, and that's how it was."
The former addict says prison is not rehabilitating people.
"We're getting sent to prison with untreated trauma, untreated alcoholism, untreated addiction, untreated mental health. It's not helping our people and non-Indigenous people as well," Mr Amatto said.
"The only way I could heal as an Indigenous man was to be introduced to a cultural-based rehab...I couldn't heal in jail."
Facilitated by barrister Joe Kellaway, the Q&A also included panelists Joe Williams, Cyrena Harris and Anne-Marie Chandler. Each spoke of the need for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Dubbo, highlighting their own experiences with addiction.
Ms Chandler said addiction was something you "never overcome" and "learn to live with".
"I think people have that in their minds that they're going to do this and they're going to get better and the problem's going to be solved. It doesn't work like that. You learn to live with it," she said.
From personal experience, and through her work at Indigig Connect, Ms Chandler said she believes a lot of the time addiction comes from the vicious cycle of poverty.
"When you're stuck in it you don't know any other way, you don't know any way out. The people you know are all involved and you don't know where to go," she said.
Ms Chandler said she wanted people to start discussing their rehabilitation experiences. She wants to see more awareness and understanding of what rehabilitation is and how it works.
But first a rehabilitation facility needs to be constructed in Dubbo.
"Out here it's really, really needed. I can't express how much," she said.
Learn more about council's push for a rehab facility by visiting dubbo.nsw.gov.au/dubboneedsarehab.