Educating the community about drugs and alcohol has been a passion for me ever since my days as a NSW Police officer.
I remember those early days and my first horrifying visit to the Sydney City morgue.
I expected that the morgue would be full of elderly people having died of natural causes – I was shocked to see that it was in fact full of 45 to 60 year olds, all victims of drugs, tobacco or alcohol.
It’s for this reason I’ve made alcohol and drug education such a big part of my life.
When not working as a NSW Hunter Project Officer for the Australian Drug Foundation’s Good Sports program, a role I’ve held for the last four years, I run a drug and alcohol program for the NSW Attorney General’s Department First Offences unit.
I don’t like to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do.
I like to educate people, give them all the available information, and then they can go away and make their own informed decisions.
Through Good Sports, I educate clubs about their legal requirements around alcohol, and I also like dispelling the myths.
There are so many misconceptions about alcohol especially the measure of a standard drink, what amounts to risky drinking and likely consequences of binge drinking.
Sporting clubs have come a long way thanks to programs like Good Sports.
Over recent years, sports clubs have been taking much greater responsibility for the health and safety of their members when it comes to alcohol. I often get requests from clubs to come and make presentations to playing groups on the issue, many clubs now prohibit alcohol entirely, while others have put strict rules in place.
However, while we’ve come a long way since my days in the police force, there is still a lot more work to be done.
In the past three years in Hunter, there have been three fatal alcohol-related accidents involving sports people from clubs not involved with Good Sports, and not a day goes by without violence in our streets.
But drugs and alcohol aren’t the only health issues sporting clubs should be concerned about.
We have a major issue at the moment with soft drinks, energy drinks and other unhealthy food and drink.
Clubs are slowly starting to change their canteens to include healthy food options but there are some simple mistakes still being made.
When talking to one Rugby League club recently, they expressed concern about the behavior of some of their younger players – and when I took a look at their canteen fridge, stocked full of energy drinks, I immediately knew the cause of the problem.
Many clubs have worried in the past that by getting rid of the unhealthy food in their canteens they will lose money but this is just not the case – these days there is a big demand for healthier food options.
Sporting clubs and other community groups are finding that the healthier their kitchen, the happier their members, players and visitors.