Page 1767 - Week 05 - Thursday, 11 May 2017

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The Ngunnawal bush healing farm began as a concept in 2003 and has a chequered history. But at all times it has been referred to as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation service. When in 2015 it looked as though it might finally be nearing completion, the government put out to tender a request for proposal for a service delivery model of care. This was where matters got interesting, because no proposals were received. Following the lack of applicants—for the record, the health directorate met with Winnunga Aboriginal health service—they requested that Winnunga engage in a single select tender process for this purpose. Winnunga agreed.

Between February and December 2016 Winnunga engaged with ACT Health, ATODA and the alcohol and other drugs service sector on the establishment of an Indigenous drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation service at the bush healing farm. In July, ATODA and Winnunga were contracted and funded by ACT Health to prepare a response to a request for quotation. This was submitted in October 2016. It was an evidence based, robust proposal.

At no time was there an understanding by Winnunga that the rehabilitation service to be delivered at the bush healing farm would include a detoxification component or methadone dosing on site. Just for the record, Winnunga do not do community detoxification at their premises. What Winnunga GPs do is prescribe methadone but then refer clients to the Canberra Hospital or a community pharmacy for dosing. Winnunga do not have S8 drugs on their current premises. They cannot understand why ACT Health or anyone else would think that they would put their clients or service at risk by doing so at the bush healing farm.

In their comprehensive 120-page response to the request for quotation, Winnunga outlined mandatory specific eligibility for clients. This was consistent with the evidence for those for whom residential rehab is indicated. It also outlined the exclusions to ensure that the best possible implementation and outcomes are achieved. These exclusions include opiate maintenance therapy clients and clients whose behaviour presents an unacceptable management or safety risk within the bush healing concept.

Winnunga always have had the best interests of their community uppermost in their mind, based on their extensive experience and expertise and long history of working with their community. The staffing structure was developed to be consistent with the response to the request for quotation. This included access to one GP and one diagnosis nurse as well as a team of 10 Indigenous social health workers. The role of the GP was to provide holistic psychotherapy as per the original intentions of the farm.

On 2 February 2017 ACT Health met Winnunga to inform them that the zoning for the bush healing farm site to deliver the Indigenous drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation service may not be possible, to the extent that counselling services were not allowable. Since that time, Winnunga has not been kept up to date with any further developments—that is, until the meeting mentioned by the minister, on 8 May, at which documentation was provided of the new draft service model. Winnunga was not aware that this new document had been developed or approached to engage in the development of that document.

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