"Does it take two years to look for land?"
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Campaigner Jeff Amatto is asking how it is possible that no land has been found to build a rehabilitation centre promised more than two years ago.
After years of local campaigning, the NSW government finally announced in November 2020 that Dubbo would get a rehab centre. As of January 2023, no visible progress has been made.
Born and raised in Wellington, Mr Amatto is a motivational speaker who addresses alcohol and drug dependency as well as issues of mental health.
As someone who has struggled with addiction in the past, he knows the price of not getting any help. According to him, it not only affects individuals but also their kin.
"It's not just affecting the one drug addict or alcoholic, it's affecting family members that are watching their loved ones suffer," he said.
"They're the ones that suffer, the mums, nans, pops, aunties and uncles that have got to pick up the slack for these ones that can't get the right help. The people who have to do the extra work to make the family function.
"It's the ripple effect. That's why our communities are so dismantled."
Mr Amatto began his advocacy journey to enlighten people about insufficient pathways to rehabilitation available for people affected by addiction.
"I started 'More Cultural Rehabs Less Jails' because there's just nowhere near the right support in this country for not just my people, Indigenous people, but non-Indigenous people as well, who want help," he said.
Mr Amatto said Dubbo was the centre of many Indigenous communities around the Central West and that it was the meeting place for places like Walgett, Bourke, Brewarrina, Moree, Wellington, Condobolin, and Gilgandra.
He said those who needed help in these communities, as well as non-Indigenous people, deserved a cultural rehab to help them get back on track. A facility to address their addiction as well as other needs in their lives.
"A cultural based rehab is more than just drugs and alcohol. It supports us around our mental health, our budgeting, our living skills on a day to day basis, it helps us become a taxpayer," Mr Amatto said.
"It's so sad that it's taken so long."
He was on a 2020 panel discussing the need for culturally sound rehab services in Dubbo. He is now disheartened by the delay in finding land, let alone opening of the centre.
"The money was finalised more than two years ago," Mr Amatto said.
"They need to stop thinking it's a political game, or a game of monopoly, and start realising that people's lives are at risk, families are losing loved ones. Just make it happen, the money's there.
"Where are they looking for this land? In Dubbo or over in America? Come on, give us something better than that, it does not take that long."
Once land has been found, it is expected to take another 12-14 months for the rehab centre to become operational.
Mr Amatto felt decision makers were waiting to announce a location closer to the upcoming state elections to help them get re-elected.
"It's just not right," he said.
On January 16, Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders told the Daily Liberal "NSW Health continues to work on identifying the most appropriate site for the rehabilitation facility, I continue to push for that to happen as quickly as possible."
A statement indicating not much had changed since May 2022.
"We will let you know as soon as we can announce something," a spokesperson from Western NSW Local Health District said, earlier this month.
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