Rural town’s response to ice problem highlighted in documentary

November 10, 2016

A group of young rural Australians are reframing the issue of ice, or crystal methamphetamine, in their local community.

In 2014 Smithton, on the far north-west coast of Tasmania, was highlighted in national media as a hotspot for crystal methamphetamine [ice] addiction.

Two years later, a group of young people have produced a documentary they hope will be used as an education tool in schools.

Crew member Curtis Maher said young people in the area were growing up knowing that ice is a problem in the community but said they needed to be reminded it was a problem that could be overcome.

“When it first came out [about ice in the town] Smithton copped a fair bit of flack for ice and methamphetamine use,” Mr Maher said.

“One of our focuses was to show the town in a good light as well, just to give people hope about how we are going to overcome it.”


The documentary, Two Trains, was produced by a cast of people under the age of 19 with a $10,000 grant from the ABC Heywire program.

The project involved teaching the amateur crew the basic skills of video production, interviewing and researching for a documentary.

Dudley Billing, 31, from Rural Health Tasmania organised the production of the documentary, but said the young crew were able to take complete control.

“The kids learnt so much from the preliminary workshops that they were doing it all themselves,” he said.

“I just found the time to go to the interview and basically say ‘go guys!’ and they just smashed it out. It was really impressive to watch.”

The documentary featured local stories about drug addiction and recovery, as well as interviews with Senator Jacqui Lambie about her son’s ice addiction, and advice from seven-time World Champion surfer, Layne Beachley, on building positive communities.

But Mr Billing said the most powerful message for change would come from the young people themselves.

“I know it sounds like rhetoric but it stops and it starts with [young people]. If those guys are more educated the problems just lessens so much,” he said.

On the night of the launch of the film in Smithton, more than 120 people came to watch the show, many of whom shared stories of ice use affecting their personal lives in discussion after the film.

Mr Billing said he witnessed first-hand the spread of the drug through his social network in north-west Tasmania.

“I was probably the generation that ice hit just coming out of college, early adulthood. A lot of my mates went down with it,” he said.

“It was a big deal, no-one really knew what it was. It was like ‘Oh, what’s this?’

“I think the means of administration — the fact you can smoke it as opposed to having to inject it through a needle — broke down barriers of fear and it got through this stigma and people just started using it.”

Mr Billing said education through programs like this documentary helped make young people more resilient to ice in their networks.

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