Raising resilient children can be a key way to prevent drug and alcohol issues later in life, according to experts.

Steven Allsop, Professor at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University in Western Australia, is among experts who will gather in Adelaide next month to discuss ways to help Indigenous people with drug and alcohol issues.

Professor Allsop said the causes of drug use can be complex.

“In order to better prevent drug use and better treat drug use we need to understand the processes that happen,” he told NIT.

“Drug use doesn’t just happen because of one reason … In a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities it’s about the availability, it might be about some families that are particularly vulnerable because of disadvantage, it might be because of few recreational and employment opportunities, because housing is poor.”

“And the other side of it is, if you look at people who are resilient, they tend to be well connected to community, well connected to culture, well connected to school, well connected to adults.”

“So it’s not something simple. Some people think you are just weak or you are a bad person. It’s a whole range of factors that contribute.”

Professor Allsop said building resilience in young children can help protect them in later life.

“It’s about ensuring that when children are young they are engaged in schools,” he said. “That doesn’t mean just turning up. It means being socially competent, having friends, feeling like you belong, as well as being academically competent.”

“Prevention is something that for drug problems in your teens and early 20s, is something you do when kids are young, but it’s not just about saying alcohol is bad for you, or this is the damage it causes. It’s about making sure our children have a sense of place and a sense of belonging.”

The National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Conference, which is being held at the Adelaide Convention Centre from November 6 to 9, will include Indigenous and non-Indigenous speakers.

Federal Health Minister Stephen Wade, federal Indigenous health minister Ken Wyatt and federal Opposition spokesperson on Human Services Linda Burney will all be in attendance.

Conference organiser and chief executive officer of the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council Scott Wilson said the conference would acknowledge the many issues Indigenous people faced from chronic health to incarceration and homelessness.

“The fact is that many Indigenous communities are impacted by mental health issues … so the bottom line is that Indigenous people who need the help of alcohol and drug services frequently have very complex and multiple needs …” he said.

By Wendy Caccetta