Albany meth rehab founder lays into PCYC

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Ice Breakers Jess Preston, Helen Miller, Margaret Gordon, Molly Hatfield and Tom Duggan.
Camera IconIce Breakers Jess Preston, Helen Miller, Margaret Gordon, Molly Hatfield and Tom Duggan. Credit: Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Tom Duggan could get his hands on some methamphetamine in no time at all, but he is past that.

He has lived a life of drugs and crime since his teens, selling “gear” and committing burglaries in between regular stints in jail.

But Margaret Gordon and her grassroots, holistic Ice Breakers program have helped turn his life around since he got out of prison last year.

At 58, he is studying and in training to become a facilitator with Ice Breakers, where he wants to use his experiences to help others break their addictions. “I’ve got direction, I’ve got purpose from being here,” Mr Duggan said.

There is no pretence about the Albany man. He speaks frankly about his life of drug abuse and criminality, the people he affected and the at-times lucrative lifestyle he led. He speaks about it with no affection.

The parts of his story that bring him to life are the new ones — the present and the future, the possibilities of employment and passing on what he has learnt.

“Because we went through it, we have the empathy for other people,” he said.

“We can relate to stories when they’re saying it.”

Mr Duggan is one of dozens of success stories produced by Ice Breakers at Albany PCYC in almost five years.

Jess Preston, 23, is another one.

Ms Preston was addicted to drugs for about four years, but like Mr Duggan, is now clean and in training to become an Ice Breakers facilitator. “I honestly cannot imagine where I’d be without them,” she said.

“In 2017 I got my shirt for being clean, that was so great. I loved it.

“I’ve been clean ever since and now I’m training to become a facilitator to give back and help other people so they don’t go through the same thing or similar things because it’s a torturous world living like that.”

Ms Gordon, a psychologist and former prison counsellor who founded the program, said there were more than 50 active participants at various stages of recovery.

Ice Breakers also runs a program at Pardelup Prison Farm and works with relatives of people dealing with addiction.

But last week, Ms Gordon was blindsided by WA PCYC’s announcement it was parting ways with the program it helped get off the ground.

After Albany PCYC manager Terry Eaton passed on the bad news, she said she received a text message from State chief executive David van Ooran who had been unable to reach her on the phone.

She thought the way the news was delivered showed a lack of professional courtesy.

Ice Breakers Molly Hatfield and Margaret Gordon.
Camera IconIce Breakers Molly Hatfield and Margaret Gordon. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

“There was no consultation at all in relation to what they’ve done. I haven’t been consulted on any of it,” Ms Gordon said.

WA PCYC president Geoff Stooke told Ms Gordon Ice Breakers was not “consistent with the core functions of the PCYC” and its target group of at-risk youth.

It would cease managing Ice Breakers when the program’s current funding, delivered through the Mental Health Commission, expires in March.

The decision, which was not made by local PCYC manager Mr Eaton, could hurt the prospects of that funding being renewed.

Mr Stooke said the organisation believed there were risks associated with the interface between Ice Breakers participants and other PCYC attendees.

But he said the decision was “not simply based” on the high-profile relapse of former Ice Breakers facilitator Craig Golding, who is going through the courts on meth-dealing charges.

“The decision was not taken lightly and had the support of all board members and WA Police Force,” Mr Stooke said.

The last part of that explanation was the hardest for Ms Gordon to accept.

“I cannot take that the WA Police Force don’t support us. It just doesn’t make sense to me,” she said. “That was one of the reasons that was given to me and I think that demeans the police because we’re trying to lower criminality.”

WA Police was contacted for comment. Ms Gordon said Ice Breakers would have to try to find another agency to partner with — or do their best to go it alone.

“Terry (Eaton) is devastated.

He put his heart and soul into helping us getting this program up and running,” Ms Gordon said.

“Without him, it would not have happened. The idea was there but without having access to PCYC and the venue and its insurances and all sorts of things, it couldn’t have happened. I don’t know where we’re going to go or who’s going to take it up. I’m just blown away.

“It’s a brilliant program and it’s making such a difference in the community.”

She said there had to be a point where people stopped thinking about protecting themselves.

“Drugs are everywhere and we can’t bury our heads in the sand,” she said.

“We have to be socially progressive. You can’t just run a program the what it’s always been. The youth of today, the adults of today, need a different type of approach to their problems.

“We’re doing that.”

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