Community Prevention

Current Project 2

Indigenous community action to reduce harms associated with heavy cannabis use in remote communities in the Cape York region (NHMRC Project Grant#601002)


Studies conducted for almost ten years in remote Aboriginal communities in the ‘Top End’ of the NT show those smoking cannabis at least weekly:

  • Males (aged 13-34 years) 60-80%

  • Females (aged 13-34 years) 35-60%

Community consultation suggests that rates in Far North Queensland may be very similar.

Mental health effects documented in the NT studies include addiction, depression, psychosis and self-harm.

Other cannabis-related issues documented include: community disruption and violence, impacts on community financial resources.

A reduction in cannabis use and availability was documented between 2001 and 2004 in the NT study. This was largely an outcome of policing efforts targeting supply. Community feedback of research results and mental health information utilizing local language, concepts and artwork also had an impact on community awareness of cannabis-related issues.

Advice and direction from communities in the region (funded by Queensland Police Service)

From October 2007 – Feb 2008 QPS & JCU team members visited 16 Indigenous communities and attended regional local government and health forums to consult personally with community members of all age groups and varying responsibilities within the community. All communities visited expressed concerns about:

  • the increase in numbers of cannabis users

  • the young age of some users

  • addiction, withdrawal, psychosis

  • the power of dealers in communities

  • doing something about this issue.

The start-up phase of the study was funded by Queensland government departments: the Premier and Cabinet; Justice and Attorney-General; Tourism, Regional Development and Industry Queensland Government Departments; Queensland Health):

  • Commencing June 2008 talking with key community members and organizations about how to best conduct research part of project

  • Recruitment of local co-workers

  • Workshop for co-workers (Cairns Nov) funded by National Cannabis Prevention & Information Centre

Research component

1. Self- reported cannabis use will be measured in each community at the beginning and towards the end of the project

  • Each person aged 15-49 & usually resident in the community will be invited to take part in a 10-15 minute interview. If the person uses cannabis they will be asked some questions about their cannabis use (eg how old when first started, how often they use, any attempts to quit or cut down).

  • We will ask that people do NOT tell us about cannabis supply and distribution or other cannabis-related criminal activities

  • Interview information will be confidential

  • Interviews with the same questions will be repeated towards the end of the project

2. The research team will assist with development of community- based demand-reduction initiatives.

  • These initiatives will commence following the baseline studies

  • They will occur at the same time as police strategies to reduce cannabis supply

  • The research team will work collaboratively with existing service providers and key community stakeholders

  • Initiatives will include: public meetings; provision of further training for health workers; working closely with schools and workplaces; resource development; continued project feedback to communities

  • These demand-reduction initiatives will be developed with each community

Anticipated outcomes

  • Reduction in cannabis use.

  • Reduction in adverse mental health effects.

  • Fewer young people taking up cannabis use.

  • Increased capacity of communities to address cannabis issues

Project accomplishments

  • Completed 438 interviews with current cannabis smokers, former cannabis smokers and never smokers. We have informed all study communities of our findings.

  • Community services have welcomed the idea to broaden education and cannabis awareness in the communities.

Support strategies and Community Partnerships

  • Commencing in early 2012 “program gunja” will launch in the communities. Invitations to the 180 current cannabis smokers, as indicated during interview, however the project team will encourage others to also partake in the program.

  • Project staff have provided a platform for service provides to work together targeting cannabis users in each community.

  • Collaborative efforts also extend with Cairns based programs that reach the Cape.

    • Tarra Tucker from “Drum Up Big”

    • Kelly Sinclair working in Sports and Exercise.

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For further information contact:

Susan Jacups
Ph: (07) 4042 1602
Fax: (07) 4042 1680