Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Q & A: Mr. Tony Trimingham

Name: Tony Trimingham

Role: Chief Executive Officer, Family Drug Support
Date: January 2009

Tony Trimingham is a busy man. Too busy for questionnaires like this. But after several attempts and some selfish pleading, Tony finally gave in. Why would someone like Tony Trimingham use the very limited free time he has to answer questions about his profession? You would think that being one of Australia’s most public and active drug treatment professionals, it would leave him little or no time for a small blog like The Australian Heroin Diaries. But that’s Tony Trimingham for you. For years, Tony has supported the families of drug users who are so often overlooked in the treatment of drug addiction. His wisdom and compassion is legendary as is his relentless call for drug law reform and for the full implementation of Harm Minimisation policies. So what’s one little Q and A to fill out during dinner at 11.00pm when you get home from work on Sunday night?

About Tony Trimingham
Mr Trimingham established the Damien Trimingham Foundation after the death of his son from a drug overdose. A counsellor for twenty years, Mr Trimingham has assisted many families who are affected by illicit drug use. The Foundation’s working project, ‘Family Drug Support’ runs a 24hr help line, support meetings and has produced a Parent Education Kit for families with drug problems. The Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia awarded Mr Trimingham an Australia Day Medallion in 1999 for outstanding achievement in the reduction of alcohol and drug-related harm.
[source: ANCD]


Family Drug Support has some conflicting views with most abstinence only drug treatment centres? Do you find many potential members who disagree with the FDS supporting such strategies as drug decriminalisation and heroin assisted treatment (HAT)?
Families often start the journey in a controlling way and often take a hardline. Over time they often realise this is counter productive and can lead to harm.

So most of the family members we talk to over time support harm reduction strategies. You sometimes meet someone who’s locked themselves into a hardline position early on and it then becomes difficult for them to change direction.

Are your members from a wide cross section of society?
Our members come from every part of Australia, outback towns to suburban cities. They come from all economic, ethnic, religious and philosophical groups. However, it is true to say that most of the people who contact us are female (80%) most of them mothers (60%) and there are more Anglo, educated, middle class people then others. It is a challenge to reach across the barriers and reach the ones we don’t get.

Was it difficult to write your book, Not My Family, Never My Child?
Finding the time was the hardest.

Like you, South Australian anti-drug crusader and politician, Anne Bressington lost a child to drugs but she took a completely different approach towards drug policy and treatment. What are your thoughts?
Anne Bressington initially supported drug law reform and I had a constructive relationship with her, I don’t know why she changed – although I have some theories.

Do you feel it’s someone’s right to take illicit drugs?
Humans have the right to do many risky things in life and drug taking (especially illicit) is risky. While I do not condone or endorse drug taking I understand that people like doing it. With this right comes responsibility – especially to those close to them and the community at large.

Do you think a recreational drug user has many obstacles to living a normal productive life compared to someone who completely abstains?
A recreational drug user has human rights and I agree their lives should be productive and healthy. The drug user faces challenges caused by stigma and negative attitudes to drugs. Unfortunately this is a reality and families also face some of these challenges.

Some member of Drug Free Australia (DFA) say ex-addicts especially those on heavy medication like methadone don’t have a place discussing addiction treatment. Are the correct?
Organisations like Drug Free Australia look at drug use in the way they view other complexities of life – from a moral and religious viewpoint. They are entitled to their opinion but often morality takes over from evidence. When they express their often noisy opinions those of us who do operate from compassionate logic need to counter their moral argument.

Other Opiate Maintenance Treatments (OMT) in use or on trial in Europe, Canada and the U.K. have had very successful results. Should other forms of OMT be trailed in Australia like slow release oral morphine, Injectable hydromorphone, dihydrocodeine and prescription heroin?
I have always been a supporter of other maintenance treatments – the best possible being heroin – but recognise that this should not be for everyone and other treatments have their place. I would be supportive of most treatments that have produced evidence of benefit – on a trial basis.

You have very strong views about drug policy. Do you feel the government listens to your advice?
Governments do not do what I would like but I like to think that my voice – representing families – does contribute to their thinking – along with other valid voices in the drug and alcohol sector.

Kevin Rudd said in an interview that his policies would be evidenced based if he won the election. Do you think this will encompass our drug policy?
The Rudd government has said very little so far on illicit drugs – he’s opposed to their strong views on alcohol. We remain to see how evidence based their policies will be.

Does religion have a place in drug policy or treatment?
Drug policy or treatment or in fact any health policy should not be governed by religious views. Everyone can comment but only firm evidence should govern policy.

Do you have any predictions for the future of Australia’s drug policy?
I have a strong optimism that the next couples of generations will produce sensible drug policy reform. My guess is that eventually we will see regulated supply of most drugs but I don’t think this will happen in my lifetime.

Bronwyn Bishop chaired an enquiry called the Impact of Illicit Drug Use On Families which you were involved in. The enquiry produced a report called The Winnable War on Drugs. What did you think of it?
Rubbish – the whole thing was biased from the start, only selected individuals were taken seriously (the nutters). Attacks on very good people were common and outrageous and the labor members of that committed were piss weak

Do you feel frustrated by the public’s ignorance regarding drug myths and their willingness to accept misinformation from the government and media outlets?
I think the public are more sensible on drug issues than most people imaging. There is still a lot of denial and stigma but on the whole I think people are quite pragmatic.

Do you think the general public understand what Harm Minimisation is?
I think they are confused because of government rhetoric. Our policy is confusing because basically it is prohibition with a dash of harm reduction and is very unbalanced. We could have better education campaigns to inform the public about the logic of the policy.

South Australia banned drug paraphernalia and rejected a call to test MDMA for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Were these good decisions?
These are retrograde steps and it is very sad that South Australia is heading in this direction.

The Western Australian government is about to repeal their current cannabis laws. Is this a good idea?
These are retrograde steps and it is very sad the Western Australia is heading in this direction.

What do think of politicians being labelled ‘Soft on Drugs’ when they suggest alternatives to current drug strategies?
Politicians have to have knowledge about a wide range of issues and they cannot be expert on everything. Those who show interest in any issue should have their views respected. Politicians generally are poorly educated on drug issues.

Finally, if you were Prime Minister Tony Trimingham and you could change one law relating to drugs or drug treatment, what would it be?
A big question but a broad brush would be to regulate the supply of most drugs

Q and A: Kerry Wolf - Certified Methadone Advocate (USA)
Q and A: Dr. James Rowe - Lecturer at RMIT, School of Global Studies, Social Science & Planning
Q and A: Gino Vumbaca - Executive Director of the Australian National Council on Drugs
Q and A: Sandra Kanck - Former South Australian MLC. South Australia spokesperson for Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (FFDLR)


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful human being. He should run for Health Minister? Good work Tony T.

Terry Wright said...

Yes Anon, definitely one of the good guys.

Anonymous said...

I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?

Terry Wright said...

Go for it, Anon.

My twitter is http://twitter.com/TerryWright101

Reginald Lee 101625 said...

Tony you my friend are one amazing man, may you succeed in all things you take on, your dedication & focus are consistant & that's refreshing today!! More power to you Mr Trimingham your agenda is honorable...

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Reginald

Yes, TT is a true champion.

His agenda is certainly honourable!

Anonymous said...

Strange there is no mention of family members.. Where is Damien's mum? Siblings?

Jake said...

What an awesome guy, great post!