Addressing the 'P' epidemic in Australia and NZ

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Australian Peter Lyndon-James says there's a methamphetamine epidemic sweeping Australia and New Zealand and that it's wiping out five generations within families. 

Māori social workers in Gisborne are learning from Lyndon-James who is touring NZ with seminars on his addictions and rehabilitation program, Shalom House, based in Perth WA, which is helping people make lasting change and regain control of their lives.

Lyndon-James is using his lived-experience to help others get back on track.

“I got put into prison at the age of nine, spent most of my life in and out of prison and institutions.  I was institutionalised [for] nine years, from the age of nine to eighteen, in boys' prisons.

“A lot of us don't want to be who we are but we don't know how to change, even when I wasn't in prison I was still in prison.  Everybody that I felt comfortable around was doing what I didn't want to do.”

Lyndon-James refers to methamphetamine as the worst drug in the world and says that people in Australia and NZ are smoking it as commonly as marijuana was smoked 20 years ago.

He says the effects of methamphetamine are disastrous and wreak havoc on families.

“Triggers are the forgiveness, the bitterness, the resentment, the guilt, the shame- a lot of kids are being sexually abused, or dad ran off and they don't understand why dad ran away.”

Gisborne-based Māori social worker Kim Whaanga-Kipa of the Mauria te Pono Trust says, “Within our communities, there needs to be more awareness around what addiction looks like feels like, smells like so that we can stop these enabling behaviours and start actually working productively with our whānau.”

Shalom House currently has 140 residents and 70-100 staff.

“One [method] is showing a person how they can change their life, and the other thing is showing the families how they bring a person to a point of wanting to make a decision to change because they want to make it," says Lyndon-James. 

“Shalom is actually working to restore not just the lives of men, but entire families in our community.  We don't have one program in Shalom, we have 140 programs because we have 140 men. If we had one program it wouldn't be relevant for everybody so we have 140 programs.”

The program is entirely self-funded and Lyndon-James says regardless of their debt when entering the five-stage program, all residents leave debt-free.

“They all leave with all their family completely restored - mums, dads, brothers, sisters, all their families completely restored for those who will actually work with us."

Kim Whaanga-Kipa says, “A commonality is about recovering from alcohol and addiction so for us, it's about being able to find other like-minded people so we can share this journey."

Whaanga-Kipa says they are looking to develop local solutions on the East Coast.