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					MINASSIST 50/03                                              Thursday 4 September 2003


   NEW POLICY TARGETS DEFENCE HEALTH, WORKPLACE SAFETY

Improving the health and safety of military personnel will be the target of the Australian
Defence Force’s new alcohol testing policy, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence,
Danna Vale, said today.

Mrs Vale said the new policy, which would see random and targeted alcohol testing of
personnel introduced in early 2004, focused on education, rehabilitation and retention of
ADF members.

“Alcohol misuse and abuse is a widespread community problem and is estimated to affect
between 6 and 11 percent of the population,” Mrs Vale said.

“Limited sampling indicates that alcohol misuse in the ADF is comparable with the civilian
Australian population of similar age and gender. These rates are too high.”

“Under the Australian Defence Force’s Mental Health Strategy launched last year, Defence
has already introduced a range of education and support initiatives to help members.

“Alcohol and other drug treatment counsellors are being contracted through State and
Territory Alcohol services already in place. Additionally, military health personnel are
receiving increased training in frontline intervention and counselling strategies.

“The new testing scheme will complement the ADF Mental Health Strategy and
demonstrates Defence’s holistic approach to addressing the impact of alcohol misuse on
members’ safety, morale and operational readiness.”

Under the new initiative every ADF member will have an equal chance of undergoing
random alcohol tests, with emphasis on testing those employed within safety critical areas.

Each Service will be responsible for testing their members and Defence will conduct a
comprehensive education and training program for members about the new scheme.

With the focus on health and safety, members who return positive tests may be referred to
the ADF Alcohol Management Program for counselling and, if necessary, treatment.
Administrative action may be taken in some cases.

Mrs Vale noted that alcohol testing of employees was already being conducted in many
civilian organisations including the New South Wales Police and mining companies.

“I welcome the introduction of this new measure as another example of the Australian
Defence Force’s priority of looking after its people,” Mrs Vale said.

Media contacts:
Rachael Thompson (Mrs Vale)              02 6277 7820        0417 265 289
Raveena Carroll (Defence)                02 6265 1263        0405 310 176

				
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