Cultural help for alcohol and drugs

Australian Vietnamese Women's Association's Anh Bui and Thao Ha. (Ljubica Vrankovic) 413896_01

A Braybrook-based program is helping women in the Vietnamese community in Melbourne’s north-west to overcome alcohol and drug (AOD) issues.

The Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association (AVWA) offers accessible, community-based alcohol and drug treatment, as well as family counselling and support for clients involved in the criminal justice system.

The program also runs in Richmond and Springvale.

AVWA councillor Anh Bui said the program has been running for 10 to 15 years.

“Most of the services in terms of alcohol and other drugs are … recovery-oriented with a holistic approach to making sure the clients receive all the help they need,” she said.

AVWA counsellors speak Vietnamese and English, with the association keen to ensure members of the Vietnamese feel comfortable reaching out for help.

With this in mind, Ms Bui said the association placed great emphasis on confidentiality.

“Keeping clients’ confidentiality is something we prioritise in our services because we know how small [the Vietnamese community] can be, and everyone knows each other,” she said.

“We try to separate that and make sure the clients feel safe with us in a confidential way with consent.”

Ms Bui said many of AVWA’s clients come from a refugee background, which might “directly or indirectly relate” to their alcohol and drug use.

Counselling sessions are conducted face-to-face, over the phone and rarely over Zoom, with counsellors working with clients for 90-day cycles.

“We mark rehabilitation as an episode, so one episode is 90 days,” Ms Bui said.

“We try to see [clients] every fortnight, or if they require more and want to engage more, we can try for once a week.

“AOD is counted as an episode because they can have urges sometimes and try to abstinent for a while. Usually within three months, that will be the end of the episode. It might be up and down, and they might need treatment again. Some people have an episode for a whole year.

“The longer the episodes are, the slower the progress.

“Three months is the baseline to see how much help they need and where they are at.”

The AVWA is passionate about promoting good behaviour in the community and has formed strong relationships with other stakeholders, including the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre – a maximum security women’s prison in Deer Park.

“We understand that at a women’s prison like DPFC, there are a lot of women prisoners who have a lack of education in terms of AOD..

“So during the past few years, we occasionally went into the prison to provide them with education sessions.”

The association also runs community events throughout the year, and offers it services to men in the community as well.

“We really want to bring treatment to families and friends and alcohol and drug users, but also raising awareness about encouraging good behaviour in the community, we also want to highlight our core value of helping the community,” Ms Bui said,

“It takes time to solve AOD problems but I think we do our best and contribute the best AOD health services for the Vietnamese community.”