The objectives of this study were to: (1) conduct research into the nature and extent of illicit intravenous drug use by the Aboriginal population of Western Australia; and, (2) determine the needs for harm reduction services for Aboriginal people who inject drugs illicitly. The project was commissioned by the Health Department of Western Australia and was conducted with the cooperation of a number of Aboriginal community-controlled health services.
A cross-sectional study design was employed in which statistical data were reviewed, and semi-structured interviews conducted with Aboriginal people who inject drugs, representatives of government and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community organisations that provide services for users, and a limited number of people from major Aboriginal family groupings.
The study found that (then) current services for Aboriginal people who injected drugs were perceived by users and service providers as deficient in a number of ways. Services available for users were categorised into those relating to health, education and training, injecting equipment, counselling and treatment, emergency and after hours services, alternatives to use, and community and family support. Health-related services were those most readily available throughout the state, and counselling and treatment were offered in some form state-wide, largely through the Community Drug Services Teams outside the metropolitan area. Aboriginal-specific alcohol and other drug services were only available in Perth and in Broome.
To address the limitations in service provision, a total to 32 recommendations were made in the areas of demand reduction, harm reduction, treatment, community education and support, and staff development.