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Advocacy in the Longer Term

On the 25th July, 2016, The Change Agent Network (CAN) hosted two of Australia’s leading experts in alcohol and other drugs to discuss the idea of how to advocate for sensible change for the AOD sector and how to sustain oneself in an environment where evidence-based policy and public opinion are often at logger heads.

Emeritus Professor David Penington from Melbourne University spoke first and discussed notions of the sector reframing itself to adopt an early intervention stance and develop a clear view on how to move forward. He encouraged us to have well developed plans and ideas ready so that when opportunities for change present themselves, we are ready and united as a sector to act.


He noted that there are a number of confounding factors in this kind of change agenda: people’s fears, the crime related to drug use, notions of morality, a black and white view of the world, and the fact that the government election cycles all too often impacts on the capacity for incremental and systemic change.


David encouraged us as a sector to engage the community by simplifying our language so that community members can grasp what we are trying to communicate.

Professor Margaret Hamilton, also from Melbourne University, spoke about advocacy from a more personal and reflective perspective. She challenged us to consider what keeps us going and who we can work with – not only to get the job done, but also in our choice of partners who should have high expectations of us  and provoke us to become even better workers and advocates than we are currently.

Margaret noted that over the years of doing advocacy “in the tent” as she described it, she always needed people “outside the tent” to push the change agenda and to help the two work in tandem to achieve mutual goals.


Of interest was what Margaret said about “truth” and the idea that all philosophical positions may be correct simultaneously. Her encouragement was for all of us to listen to the “others” perspective and take the time to understand different opinions so that we can respectfully explore our options as we push for real change.

Moses Abbatangelo


The Change Agent Network

Both speakers encouraged us to take the broader community along in our discourse for change, from the macro level of presenting a case to politicians, to the one-on-one interactions we have with people sharing their recovery stories.

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