By: Samantha Olley

Kim Ledger, father of Heath Ledger, speaks at the Cutting Edge Addiction Conference in Rotorua in 2016. Photo / File

Rotorua is hosting those involved in New Zealand’s frontline against addiction from today.

The Cutting Edge Addictions Conference officially starts today, following a pre-conference hui yesterday.

There are almost 600 registered attendees, mostly practitioners.

“It is the main major addictions conference in New Zealand. There are lots of others but none that are specifically for people working in the addictions sector,” MC Tuari Potiki (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Waitaha) told the Rotorua Daily Post.

He is the director of the University of Otago’s office of Māori development and chairman of the Drug Foundation.

“It [the conference] is an opportunity to get together; it doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

Potiki said a lot of people who did this kind of work spent most their time in a small room.

“It is one of the most challenging professions you could have but probably one of the most rewarding.”

Potiki said politicians attended every year, and the conference hosted speakers at the forefront of the profession from around the world.

“[The Addiction Practitioners’ Association] do the work to get the real guns,” Potiki said.

This year, journalists Johann Hari and Jenny Valentish are on the list, as well as the founder of Australia’s only supervised injecting facility Dr Marianne Jauncey and Rotorua’s Māori Mental Health Workforce Development leader Sir Mason Durie.

When the conference was last held in Rotorua in 2016, the speakers included Kim Ledger, father of actor Heath Ledger, who died from an overdose in 2008.

Addiction Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa New Zealand executive director Sue Paton said the conference would focus on connectedness, because broken relationships were often the cause of addiction.

“Addiction is all about disrupted connection,” she said.

She said the conference was timely, being held during the Government’s review of mental health and addiction and increased spending on health.

Panel members would attend the conference.

The programme includes two days of sessions, an awards dinner, workshops with the keynote speakers, and hui covering Māori, Asian and Pacific perspectives on addiction.

“For a long time New Zealand has imported models but they don’t necessarily work … The quality of the connection between person and practitioner is more important than the model.”

There are subsidised fees and scholarships for people in treatment and recovery to attend.

Paton said 50 to 60 were joining.

“It is important that the system is informed by those that are using it. Many of these people will also go onto careers in addiction.”

Source: NZ Herald


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