ONE of the speakers at the ice forum in Mornington last Tuesday was cheered and clapped long and hard for her bravery in telling a difficult story.
The forum – “What’s the real story with ice” – was organised by the churches and community group alliance Peninsula Voice, which has been running a series of forums to tackle difficult topics such as family violence.
Peninsula Voice chair Peter Orton said Kerrie Knight, the Mornington mother of a 21-year-old daughter with an ice addiction who told her family’s harrowing story to more than 370 strangers, was a hero in the same vein as the peninsula’s family violence campaigner Rosie Batty, who had bared all in the national spotlight about the death of her son Luke to make a change.
“Kerrie spoke for just four minutes but what she said had a profound effect on audience members with a very powerful speech,” he said.
Ms Knight was the only “civilian” speaker of four, joining Victorian Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana, Peninsula Health’s alcohol and other drugs manager Stephen Bright, and Julie Rae of the Australian Drug Foundation.
Ms Knight told the audience she and her partner Mark had raised four children in Mornington. “My daughter Indya has battled with ice addiction for five years. My story is not unique; in fact it is far too common.
“I would like to share my story in the hope that it may help other families learn from my experience, to help families cope better with addiction,” she said.
Ms Knight said her daughter tried ice at age 16. “From that point, our family has endured suffering, anguish and sheer frustration. Indya is now 21 and is in a government-funded rehabilitation facility in Darwin. This is the second time she has been in a rehabilitation facility.”
“Touch wood, this time she can get the knowledge and skills to help her to re-establish a more positive life. Indya has been damaged by this addiction and in particular her mental health.”
Ms Knight said drug addiction was an illness that required long-term treatment for people to recover. “It is not a moral failing. I have learnt the difference between enabling and loving support.”
She said drug addiction did not discriminate. “It has nothing to do with your socio-economic position. It has nothing to do with your education level or your background.”
She said her daughter had overdosed five times in the past five years. “From my experience she is one of the fortunate ones to still be alive. Indya has had consistent and loving family support. What was lacking in our approach was knowledge and the skill to know how to support her without enabling her addiction.
“Simply advising young people not to take drugs is not the answer. Family and community are the key elements to help deliver education, early intervention and harm minimisation. We have a huge gap in the community for a local family support network.
“The trauma of drug addiction has a ripple effect on family members, which impacts their mental health. Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to addiction, we don’t feel comfortable talking about it. We fear judgement as a parent. This has to change. We need more open conversation, not less.”
Ms Knight called on the peninsula community to set up a family support group. “We need a safe place to be able to share our stories and personal suffering in the non-judgemental and caring environment. Peninsula Voice has offered to run a smaller forum to bring affected people together.”
Mr Orton said it was hoped to run another forum later this year. In the meantime, the group was planning to run a series of smaller, support group-type events in the way described by Ms Knight.
For more information go online to www.peninsulavoice.org