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A Melbourne secondary school has confirmed it will be the first to use the Smarter About Drugs Conversation Pack, to engage its students in open and informed discussions about illicit drugs and the policies that guide Australia’s response to them. That’s just one of four major developments at Australia21 over the past month.

1. Becoming Smarter About Drugs

The Smarter About Drugs Conversation Pack is a unique school and community education resource. Not only does it address the health and social impacts of drug use, its point of difference is that it also empowers young people to become involved in the development of harm minimisation strategies and illicit drug policies at the broader community level.

The Smarter about Drugs project began in 2014 with a youth workshop and panel discussion hosted by Australia21, the Ted Noffs Foundation and the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at the University of South Australia. Australia21’s YoungA21 Committee began planning the Conversation Pack as a result of that event, then partnered with the Australian Lions Drug Awareness Foundation (ALDAF) in a joint strategy to develop and promote it.

The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) in South Australia assisted with mapping the Conversation Pack to the Australian curriculum. That work is now being fine-tuned at the Melbourne secondary school which will pilot its implementation.

Australia21 warmly welcomes the support of the school’s Board and Leadership Team. They are championing an innovative approach to reversing drug harm, while giving young Australians a greater voice in their future.

Australia21 also congratulates the participants in the initial workshop, who will now see their idea become reality. This important resource was only possible through the vision of those young people.

2. Focusing on the future of work

Australia21 has been awarded a $10,000 Department of Employment grant for Making our Future Work, a youth workshop being piloted in the ACT in August.

Sessions will explore how young people think and feel about the challenges and opportunities presented by employment in a rapidly changing and uncertain labour market. The sessions will be led by young facilitators, drawing out the experiences, hopes and concerns of participants and inviting them to engage with policy makers and other leaders in the field.

The aims of Making Our Future Work are two-fold:

  • Informing evidence-based policy making – the discussions will provide a snapshot of the current conversation around the future of work, from the perspective of young people, giving them real buy-in to the formation of more holistic youth policies.

  • Community development – the workshop will provide a platform for participants to critically engage with their individual and collective futures, work collaboratively, and share ideas with other young people and people in positions of power.

The initiative is being led by the YoungA21 Committee.

We are also pleased to announce that the YWCA in the ACT has come on board with support, providing the venue for the workshop.

3. Turning PTSD on its head

It’s time to move beyond the view of post traumatic stress (PTSD) as an illness, to a view that it is a normal response to abnormal experiences.

That’s one thing which has become particularly clear as a result of the unprecedented Roundtable on post traumatic stress among first responders, hosted by Australia21 and Fearless Outreach in May 2017.

A report is being prepared on how Australia can respond more effectively to PTSD and we can tell you now that shifting the emphasis away from ‘illness’ to ‘wellbeing’ will be the number one priority on the list of recommendations.

The shift in approach will have the important incidental benefit of helping to destigmatise PTSD and its precursors. Key to that will be the recognition of PTSD as an occupational hazard for first responders and therefore a health and safety risk that needs to be managed.

A senior police officer defined the cultural end-state we need to reach nationally:

  • It is normal for the things we do and see to impact us.

  • It is normal when we are so impacted to seek support or backup.

  • It is normal with that support and backup to get better.

The Australia21 report will detail the submissions made to the Roundtable and the discussions on the day, as well as making recommendations.

4. Algal farming SWOT

Australia21 has finalised its report into the potential economic and environmental benefits of algal farming.

This report is a synthesis of
 an exchange of views between 
a diverse group of scientists, entrepreneurs, experienced government policymakers and futurists who met at Parliament House in Canberra in November 2016.

The participants examined the possibilities presented by both micro-algae and macro-algae (seaweeds), analysing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats from the development of an industry in Australia.

The Roundtable considered the potential to reduce nutrient run-off from agriculture, which affects coastal water quality and the health of marine ecosystems, particularly the Great Barrier Reef.

Apart from waste treatment, the Roundtable looked at using algal farming to produce fuel, food and high value molecules, or a product that forms part of the supply chain for those.

Several key questions were addressed:

  • Is it the best way of capturing and converting the solar energy available?

  • Is it the best way of using the land and water required?

  • Is the process likely to be reliable enough and scalable enough?

The result was a list of six recommendations, intended for consideration by governments, research agencies, investors and current stakeholders in the nascent algal industry.

Australia21 will bring you all the details here, when the report is launched at Parliament House in Canberra in August.

Please help Australia21 continue its work researching and promoting fair, sustainable and inclusive public policies.

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