Goonoowiggal is my New England special place. When I am in this part of the world and feel the need for peace or clarity I make my way out to Goonoowiggal. There is a quiet there I cannot quite explain and I am continually drawn back.

Goonoowiggal is a word of the Jukumbul peoples meaning ‘Wallaby Rocks’ or more specifically¬†plenty wallaby rocks. I love that.

So out there one morning sitting on a picnic table playing guitar and a white car pulls in and out jump two men I come to know as Derek and Michael. This is the best part of my life: not just meeting amazing people but having the time to talk and listen to their stories.

Derek Boney and Michael Duncan are Drug and Alcohol caseworkers and were on their way to Bundarra to meet up with some kids. Goonoowiggal is the land of their ancestors and they grew up here as kids.

‘You’ve probably heard of the stolen generation, well if we don’t sort out this ice problem, it will be the lost generation.’ ~Derek Boney

“We’ll help anyone with a substance problem” they tell me “but working for Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, we are actually only funded to help the indigenous.”

I then ask them a million questions and this is some of what I learned that morning.

Drugs and alcohol don’t discriminate, they are equally bad. There is however a great concern for the rising ice epidemic. Kids as young as 8 are using ice, girls as young as 11 are prostituting themselves to buy ice, men in their late 50s are using ice. Mothers are using ice.

In the New England ice is already a major problem for aboriginal youth in Inverell, Bundarra, Brewarrina and Moree.

One of the biggest issues for aboriginal kids in the New England is lack of jobs. They have access to training programs and many of them do go ahead and achieve Certificates III and IV in a many different disciplines and trades. They just don’t seem to get the jobs.

How many shops, cafes and stores in Inverell have aboriginal employees?

The kids get so despondent after knock-back after knock-back after knock-back. Ice is an easy out. They’re bored.

Both Derek and Michael agree that if you could get the kids jobs a lot of the alcohol and drug problems (including ice) would disappear.

Not all. I’m not sure which one of us said it, but all three of us agreed that drugs like ice, alcohol and other substances are just a symptom of a deeper underlying problem inside the aboriginal kids.

And that is where I will leave you to think about just what that problem might be.

Big thanks to Derek and Michael for taking the time to tell me about their work and commitment to the future of their people.