In August 2011, the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) and the Burnet Institute hosted the 6th Pacific Drug and Alcohol Research Network (PDARN) meeting in Fiji.
PDARN is the only research and information network in the Pacific region with a specific focus on substance use and related issues. The network provides a unique opportunity for Pacific Island Countries and Territories to exchange information; discuss and instigate research proposals; and enhance links with others working in the Region on these significant public health issues.
A number of delegates from 10 Pacific Island Countries and Territories, the World Health Organisation, University of the South Pacific, Massey University, Auckland University, Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Australian Attorney Generals’ Department, as well as sponsors and supporters participated in the meeting.
Once again, PDARN delegates welcomed the opportunity to share information on substance use trends and issues at both the regional level and within individual Pacific Island Countries and Territories. The meeting also provided an opportunity for participants to receive presentations on and discuss an international alcohol control study, ethnographic research on male identity and alcohol in Fiji, case studies of community action on drugs, ethical issues for research, addressing stigma and discrimination, as well as philosophies that can underpin national strategies to address substance use.
Delegates also presented and discussed their own multi-country case study on the impact and effects of ‘home brew’ alcohol – which was agreed to be undertaken by PDARN delegates at the 2010 meeting. A written report on the case study is expected to be available in coming months. Also discussed at the meeting was an upcoming rapid assessment project in the Solomon Islands, the potential for some drug and alcohol research being funded in Nauru and some community action capacity building in Fiji and the Cook Islands.
The meeting included a briefing and visit to the Sigatoka Police Drug Squad on the levels of illicit drug supply and trafficking in Fiji. The range of difficulties faced by local police given the resources of drug syndicates was also discussed at the briefing.
Some of the key findings from the PDARN 2011 meeting included:
- The continuing trend of increased alcohol consumption across the region, particularly amongst young people;
- The lack of legislation governing alcohol and other drugs within the region and the lack of enforcement of existing legislation and policies; e.g.:the ongoing lack of regulation to address harmful alcohol licensing and marketing issues across the region;
- The urgent need for support in development of effective national alcohol polices and action plans in many Pacific Islands countries and territories
- The lack of regulation on the production, price and strength of home brew which is becoming established as strong informal market throughout the region;
- The link between alcohol intoxication, unsafe sexual activity, sexually transmitted infections and HIV;
- The strong relationship between alcohol and crime, particularly violence against women;
- The need for adequate funding of research community action, treatment, enforcement and border control;
- The need for improved data collection on substance use issues;
- The need for ongoing support to further strengthen networks within countries, the region and internationally to encourage the sharing of data and research;
- The need for a more open exchange of information between agencies working in substance use areas, such as, the police and local health bodies, to enable early detection of developing issues;
The PDARN Delegates also discussed the future of PDARN given the current funding agreement with the Australian Government had ended. As part of a continual improvement process for PDARN the delegates agreed to pursue funding for PDARN based on it formalizing both its role and structure as outlined below:
- Regional Network of Focal Points for Technical Assistance and Advice
- Collection, Collation & Dissemination of Information on Pacific Drug & Alcohol Issues
- Development & Support for Research Projects
- Increase collaboration and co-operation between all sectors involved with drug and alcohol issues
There will be 3 categories of membership created for PDARN
- Primary PDARN Members - key People & Focal Points in Pacific Island Countries & Territories, with up to 4 delegates per country from the fields of Research, NGO, Health (Government) & Law Enforcement. These members will be the focal points for advice and assistance on drug and alcohol issues, as well as being responsible for updating the PDARN website content for their Pacific Island Country & Territories.
- Associate PDARN Members - International Organizations, Regional Organizations and Academic Institutions with contact details to be listed on PDARN database to ensure they receive all email updates and information. They will also be invited to present and attend PDARN annual meetings as self sponsored representatives.
- PDARN Supporters - other key AOD and related personnel in government, NGO, research & law enforcement in Pacific Island Countries & Territories who will receive an annual report and regular e-bulletins on PDARN activities
PDARN Logo Competition
PDARN agreed to conduct a competition to design a logo for PDARN.
School children and young people from around the Pacific Region will be asked to submit designs with the winning entry to receive a new iPad.
Details and promotional flyers will be developed in coming months.
A full report on the 2011 meeting will be available in coming weeks.
Other information on PDARN is available at the new website www.pdarn.org
PDARN Background Information:
PDARN was established in 2005 and aims to identify and explore opportunities for collaboration between health, law enforcement and social research personnel across the Pacific on drugs and alcohol issues facing Pacific Island Countries and Territories, and to make policy recommendations to individual governments.
The ANCD is the principal advisory body to the Prime Minister and Government on drug and alcohol issues and includes a diverse range of experts from health, law enforcement, treatment, education, research and non-government sectors.
For further information, please contact:
A/Prof Robert Ali (ANCD Asia-Pacific Committee Chair) 0407 604 302
Mr Gino Vumbaca (ANCD Executive Director) 0408 244 552
Meeting costs for Pacific country participants was funded by AusAID, the Department of Health & Ageing and the ANCD.