Associate Professor Ted Wilkes is a Nyungar man from Western Australia. He worked for sixteen years as the Director of the Derbarl Yerrigan Aboriginal Health Service in Perth. Currently he is a leader of the Aboriginal Research Program at Curtin University and plays an active role in Aboriginal capacity building, and research and its application. He is a member of the Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs providing advice and expertise to committees at state, national and international levels. In 2014 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the Indigenous community, as a researcher in public health and welfare, and to youth in Western Australia.
Professor Dennis Gray is Deputy Director at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, and a leader of the Institute’s Aboriginal Research Program. He has published extensively on Aboriginal substance misuse issues. His most recent work focuses on the provision of alcohol and other drug services and on enhancing options for the management of alcohol and cannabis related problems in Aboriginal community-controlled health services. He is a former member of the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee and in 2010 was named on the National Drug and Alcohol Honour Roll, in recognition of his significant contributions.
Professors Wilkes and Gray have an unwritten contract that they will work in partnership to minimise the harmful use of alcohol and other drugs among Aboriginal Australians. In Australia, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs are readily available and there are strong vested interests in promoting that availability. Aboriginal people use these substances both as a means of recreation and to ‘self-medicate’ to alleviate the on-going impact of colonialism and they (especially the legal substances alcohol and tobacco) are the cause of unacceptable levels of sickness and death among Aboriginal Australians. Aboriginal Australians have been at the forefront of efforts to reduce this harm. Well-intentioned governments and non-Aboriginal people have also played a role. However, their efforts are often at cross-purposes with those of Aboriginal Australians and good intentions on non-Aboriginal people can have adverse effects for Indigenous people. It is out of the recognition that neither group alone can address the problem and that Aboriginal Australians need to harness the good intentions of non-Aboriginal people that our partnership has grown. Our un-written contract is based on our commitments to fight for the common good and the recognition that, regardless who opposes us, it is better we fight together. If we walk the walk and talk the talk together we can be a formidable force.