Australia needs to increase funding for drug and alcohol treatments and early interventions like pill testing, a leading academic says.
Emeritus Professor Toni Makkai, who works at the Australian National University's Centre for Social Research and Methods, said the government's focus on increased mental health funding wouldn't help people with severe drug addictions who need intensive respite treatments.
"Quite a substantial number of people who get involved with drugs don't have a mental health problem. Some of them do, but not all of them," Emeritus Professor Makkai said.
"And so you can't kind of just say, well, we're rolling out mental health [services] therefore we're addressing drugs, you're not. There are different kinds of issues and responses."
The criminology expert has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to public administration and higher education.
Before her current role, she was the she was the dean and director of the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences and chair of the college executive for seven years.
Emeritus Professor Makkai was the first female director of Australian Institute of Criminology, a position she for five years.
But it's her work with the Ted Noffs Foundation and the Farm in Galong that's she's most proud of.
"What we are doing [at The Farm] is offering a therapeutic community environment to bring women who are having serious difficulties adjusting following either having been in prison or having been in drug and alcohol treatment services.
"They don't have many life skills and they've often had their children taken away from them and they've got all sorts of chaos in their lives."
The women usually come to stay at the Farm at Galong for 12 months and learn life skills, vocational skills and get assistance with reuniting with their families.
Through her research and work in the government sector, Emeritus Professor Makkai has come to realise that the criminal justice system is important to target drug traffickers and dealers, but it's less effective for drug users.
"The vast majority of people who get caught up in the criminal justice system are actually users. They're often arrested on possession charges and they have an addiction problem.... if you want to get to the root cause that's what you've got to deal with.
"The criminal justice system in a way is a response at the end of the road, rather than trying to intervene early and to divert people off that road into a more productive road."
This is why she threw her support behind Pill Testing Australia as a way to connect young people with peer counselling before they had a serious addiction problem.
Emeritus Professor Makkai was part of ANU's decision to buy the Social Research Centre company and help establish the successful Centre for Social Research and Methods to show that social science research could be commercialised.
She built her resilience during a childhood where her family moved around to various mining towns in Australia and Asia, following her father's work in construction. He was an Eastern European refugee who moved to Australia after World War II.
"My career has been about doing different work in different types of institutions and so I think that upbringing was probably important in all of that."
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