Inquiries and Reviews

Overview

There have been a number of inquiries, reviews and commissioned investigations in Western Australia (WA) concerned with the adequacy of existing policies and potential reforms to manage problems attributable to the use of alcohol and other drugs, including –

  • Investigation into drugs and alcohol by Dr Archie Ellis (1972)
  • Royal Commission Into the Treatment of Alcohol and Drug Dependents (1973)
  • Report on dependence on alcohol and other drugs in WA by Dr Thomas Bewley (1979)
  • Review of WA Alcohol and Drug Authority by Dr Bruce Ritson (1983)
  • Select Committee Into Alcohol and Other Drugs (1984)
  • Working Party on the WA Alcohol and Drug Authority (1989)
  • Task Force on Drug Abuse (1995)
  • Education and Health Standing Committee (2009 – 2011)
  • Select Committee into Alternative Approaches to Reducing Illicit Drug Use (2019)

Whereas earlier inquiries tended to be focussed on identifying the health, social, law and order related consequences attributable to alcohol as well as other drugs, inquiries since 1995 were more likely to be preoccupied with illicit drug-related issues outcome and an expansion in the powers of law enforcement agencies.

These inquiries also set out agendas for the delivery and scope of treatment services and increased expenditure on programs to prevent and/or reduce drug use, in some instances proposing the expansion in abstinence-focussed approaches.

Investigation Into Drugs and Alcohol (1971 – 1972)
Commissioned investigation by Dr Archie Ellis

This was an investigation by Dr Archie Ellis, then Director of Mental Health Services. His report drew on visits to a number of countries undertaken between July to November 1971, attendance at two international conferences and other sources of information, to provide a snapshot of developments and emerging approaches. It was presented to the Minister for Health in February 1972.

The investigation provides a snapshot in the early 1970s related to alcohol and other drug problems, treatment services and the legal framework in Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, the United Kingdom, Jamacia, Bahamas Islands and California. The report also had observations from a visit by Dr Ellis to Wisteria House in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), about the methadone blockade program that Dr Stella Dalton had been conducting since 1969. 

Click here to view or download a PDF version [4.3MB] of this report.

Royal Commission Into Treatment of Alcohol and Drug Dependents (1972 – 1973)

A Parliamentary Select Committee was appointed in May 1972 to investigate the adequacy of approaches and facilities that existed for the treatment of the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs and examine ways to ‘combat’ substance use and dependency in WA. It was chaired by Richard Williams MLC, a Liberal member of Parliament.

In November 1972 the Select Committee was dissolved and its members reappointed as a Royal Commission, which reported to government in May 1973.

A key recommendation of the Royal Commission was for a higher degree of coordination and leadership by government regarding treatment services, to be achieved by creating an autonomous government agency. This resulted in the passing of the Alcohol and Drug Authority Act 1974 and the establishment of the WA Alcohol and Drug Authority (ADA), which commenced in November 1974. 

Click here to view or download a PDF version [2.3MB] of this report.

Dependence on alcohol and other drugs in WA (1979)
Commissioned investigation by Dr Thomas Bewley

Dr Bewley, a Consultant Psychiatrist at St Thomas’ and Tooting Bec Hospitals, London and Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, was commissioned by the ADA in 1979 to undertake a survey of agencies, stakeholders, local experts and interest groups in WA.

The wide-ranging 56 page report presented the ADA with a number of recommendations regarding development of long-term strategic objectives, consolidation and focus of treatment services, prioritisation of the prevention of alcohol and other drug problems and to deliver education and training programs to improve skills of those who worked in the drug and alcohol sector in the metropolitan area, as well as regional areas.

Click here to view or download a PDF version [1.9MB] of this report.

Review of WA Alcohol and Drug Authority (1983)
Commissioned investigation by Dr Bruce Ritson

In 1983 the ADA commissioned Dr Bruce Ritson, an eminent Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, to review its clinical service, its relationship with professional bodies and other practitioners, as well as the non government sector and areas for organisational development, such as, training and research.

The report also identified and considered a number of priority areas, such as the difficulties in delivering services in non-metropolitan areas of the State and the issue of problematic alcohol use by Indigenous people.

Click here to view or download a PDF version [686k] of this report.

Select Committee into Alcohol and Other Drugs (1983 – 1984)

The Select Committee tabled its report in the WA Parliament in May 1984 after being established in August 1983. It was chaired by Gordon Hill MLA. 

Whilst the inquiry sought to determine the effectiveness of the role of the ADA, it also included a wide ranging review concerning alcohol and other drug issues in WA at that time. It resulted in a large number of recommendations, such as the need for additional treatment services, educational and workforce training needs and law enforcement issues.

Click here to view or download a PDF version [7.9MB] of this report.

The Select Committee into Alcohol and Drugs, chaired by Gordon Hill MLA, tabled its report in the WA Parliament in May 1984. A novel feature of this inquiry was the inclusion of research which outlined in some detail the impact of alcohol related problems in WA, encompassing both the health and criminal justice systems, as an appendix.

This separate examination of alcohol related problems, including extensive information about impact of policy measures, such as reductions in availability of alcohol and augmentation of law enforcement measures, was undertaken by the ADA’s then Research psychologist Dr Ian Smith. This research was published as Appendix C: Availability of alcoholic beverages and crime: An example of the value of social policy research..

Click here to view or download a PDF version (2.4MB) of Appendix C of the report.

Working Party on the WA Alcohol and Drug Authority (1989)

In July 1989 a report was released of a review of whether the ADA could be absorbed into the Health Department and thereby cease to operate as a separate agency. The review had been commissioned by the then Minister for Health (Keith Wilson), in response to a functional review by the Government, which had recommended disbandment of the ADA.

The working party investigated whether (1) the ADA be disbanded as had been recommended by the Functional Review, (2) that the existing status and operations of the ADA be maintained or (3) that the existing status of the ADA be maintained but that its operations be reviewed to achieve increased efficiencies.

Click here to view or download a PDF version [2.9MB] of this report.

Task Force on Drug Abuse (1995)

The Task Force on Drug Abuse (TFDA) was established in December 1994 by then Premier Richard Court MLA and published its three part report, Protecting the community, in September 1995. It was chaired by Mike Daube.

The ambit of the TFDA was to develop a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the magnitude and impact of alcohol, other licit drugs (eg prescription drugs and tobacco), in addition to illicit drugs, in WA. Whilst the inquiry had a strong emphasis on preventive and other longer term demand reduction measures, it also included an examination of the adequacy of treatment services, in relation to illicit drugs, particularly heroin. 

Click here to view or download PDF versions of each volume –

  • Executive summary [176k]
  • Volume 1: Reviews & recommendations [1.2MB]
  • Volume 2: Information & analysis [1.6MB]

The inquiry resulted in major changes of the approach of government in managing alcohol and other drug issues in WA, some of which were modelled on approaches in the UK.

These reforms included such as creation of a centralised government office responsible for oversight of drug policy across departments, the development of Community Drug Service Teams (CDSTs) as the primary service providers instead of this function being performed by the ADA, a greater role for community action through funding of small project overseen by Local Drug Drug Action Groups (LDAGs) and the adoption of a State drug strategy and action plans to provide strategic direction in managing alcohol and other drug issues.

Education and Health Standing Committee (2009 – 2011)

The Legislative Assembly’s Education and Health Standing Committee (EHSC) was Chaired by Janet Woollard MLA and was concerned with the impact and social costs of alcohol and other drug use in WA, which it sought to determine through hearings and submissions and testimony in relation to three broad areas –

  • the evidence base, content, implementation and resourcing (including professional training) for health education and other interventions on alcohol and illicit drugs for school-aged students
  • the evidence base, adequacy, accessibility and appropriateness of the broad range of services for treatment and support of people with alcohol and drug problems and their families, and the most appropriate ways to ensure integrated care
  • the adequacy of the current education and training of medical and allied health professionals in the alcohol and drug field.

Click on links to view or download the EHSC’s three reports from the WA Parliament website –

  • Report 1: Alcohol restrictions in the Kimberley: A window of opportunity for improved health, education, housing and employment (March 2011) Link
  • Report 2: Changing patterns in illicit drug use in Western Australia (May 2011) Link
  • Report 3: Alcohol: reducing the harm and curbing the culture of excess (June 2011) Link

Select Committee into Alternative Approaches to Reducing Illicit Drug Use (2019)

The Select Committee into Alternative Approaches to Reducing Illicit Drug use and Its Effects on the Community was Chaired by Alison Xamon MLC was established in October 2018. It tabled its report, Help, not handcuffs: evidence-based approaches to reducing harm from illicit drug use, in the WA Parliament in November 2019.

The Committee conducted a broad investigation into approaches to reducing harm from illicit drug use which had been adopted in a number of selective jurisdictions and to make comparisons with policies and approaches adopted in WA.

Click here to view or download PDF version of the Committee’s report (WA Parliament website).

Community Drug Summit 2001

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) had gone to the State election in February 2001 and indicated as part of its pre-election manifesto it would, if elected, hold a ‘community drug summit’, to consider options for service delivery, drug law reform and the ‘decriminalisation’ of minor offences involving cannabis.

The drug summit was conducted in WA over 5 days in August 2001 and held in the Parliament House in Perth.

Prior to the State election ‘drug summits’ had enjoyed some popularity and had been adopted by a number of ALP State governments elsewhere in Australia as a hybrid forum to canvass public opinion, identify issues, determine priorities and make recommendations on drug policy. The sequence of the various summits held in Australia were –

  • Queensland drug summit, which had a ‘youth’ focus (March 1999)
  • New South Wales drug summit (May 1999)
  • WA drug summit (August 2001)
  • South Australian drug summit (June 2002)
  • New South Wales alcohol summit (August 2003)

Except for the NSW Summit on alcohol abuse (in August 2003), drug summits have focussed on illicit drugs.

The NSW alcohol summit was held in August 2003 and was attended by members of parliament, key government departments, appointed ‘community representatives’ and selected ‘experts’. A similar approach to ‘represent’ a spectrum of interests had been followed in the May 1999 NSW drug summit and was replicated by the WA drug summit in August 2001.

Final report and proceedings

A number of materials were published related to the drug summit, including the final report with summaries of discussions and resolutions and transcripts of each day’s proceedings –

  • Final report – September 2001 [1.7MB]
  • Transcript of proceedings day 1 – 13 August 2001 [374k]
  • Transcript of proceedings day 2 – 14 August 2001 [392k]
  • Transcript of proceedings day 3 – 15 August 2001 [375k]
  • Transcript of proceedings day 4 – 16 August 2001 [408k]
  • Transcript of proceedings day 5 – 17 August 2001 [430k]

Background papers

Two background papers were published with statistical and treatment utilisation data –

  • Illicit drugs in WA: Current services and strategies – June 2001 [70k]
  • Illicit drugs in WA: Facts and figures – June 2001 [1.8MB]

issues papers

Nine issues papers were released in conjunction with the 2001 summit –

  • Young people and illicit drug use [171k]
  • Supporting families to deal with illicit drug issues, particularly regarding issues for children of drug users and parents and siblings of drug users [118k]
  • Addressing illicit drug use among Aboriginal people, including the provision of treatment programs for drug dependent Aboriginal people [128k]
  • Prevention and early intervention strategies, including school, parent and public education and action in local communities [116k]
  • Treatment for drug users and reintegration of drug dependent people into the community [117k]
  • Broadening the provision of treatment for drug users through other human services, including the health, justice, welfare and youth sectors, and its integration with specialist alcohol and drug services [129k
  • Drugs and law enforcement, including consideration of the most appropriate legal framework for illicit drugs, diverting drug users into treatment and treating the most serious offenders in prisons [165k]
  • Reducing harm to the community and individuals caused by continued drug use [147k]
  • Linking drug strategies into overall social policies to address the underlying causes that generate other social problems, such as violence, suicide and crime [110k]

Amphetamine type stimulants

Amphetamine type stimulants summit (2007)

A one-day drug summit was held in July 2007, related to the issue of the use of amphetamine type stimulants. A number of documents were prepared and released in relation to the Illicit amphetamine summit –

  • Illicit amphetamine summit – Background paper [232k]
  • Illicit amphetamine summit – Government action plan [527k]
  • Indicators of amphetamine type stimulant abuse in WA (June 2007) [969k]

Inquiry by Methamphetamine Action Task Force (2018)

The report of the Task Force, which was appointed in June 2017 and chaired by Ron Alexander, was released in November 2018.

Click here to view or download a copy of the Task Force’s report.

Office of Auditor General Western Australia (2018)

Treatment services for people with methamphetamine dependence.

Click here to view or download a copy of the Auditor General’s report.