Growing our addictions workforce, focusing on harm reduction, and supporting people to live healthier lives.


These were just some of the actions discussed at the latest Addiction Leadership Day – Aotearoa’s triannual addiction workforce symposium – held in Wellington on 30 March. 


“Undeniably, the detrimental effects of addiction are wide and varied,” said Peter Carter, interim director of addiction. “So, our approach to reducing harm needs to be responsive, comprehensive, and tailored to meet the needs of individuals and their whānau.”


Addiction Leadership Day, now in its 18th year, provides an opportunity for more than 100 people who work in addictions to share experiences as well as hear from academics and sector experts on issues and opportunities.


Among the speakers were Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall, Deb Fraser (co-chair, National Committee for Addiction Treatment, NCAT), Sheridan Pooley and Rhona Robertson (Addiction Consumer Leadership Group), Lucina Cassin (Clinical Director, Te Aka Whai Ora), and Peter Carter (Interim Director Addictions, Te Whatu Ora). 


Peter said attendees were encouraged by the government’s ongoing focus on developing clinical, cultural, and lived experience roles, strengthening the core of addiction services, widening harm reduction and prevention options, as well as destigmatising receiving support from and working within the addiction sector.


He added, Te Whatu Ora alongside Te Aka Whai Ora are working closely together on a new co-commissioning approach for addiction services.


“We’ve also spent the past six months meeting with the addictions sector to hear their thoughts first-hand on the service and workforce needs in our communities. And from these conversations we’re now developing an addictions services framework.


“It's about better delivering services and ensuring better health outcomes for whaiora and whānau affected by alcohol or other drugs, and gambling harm. Meanwhile for practitioners, clinicians, support workers, and countless others working in the addiction system, it’s about ensuring they’re part of a supported, sustainable workforce,” said Peter.


“Our addiction system already has strong foundations: a highly skilled and dedicated workforce, engaged and passionate communities, and an ability to work together to get things done when we need to. The work our addictions kaimahi do is quite literally life changing. It’s not easy, yet they show incredible commitment and care.


“By focusing on these priorities, the addiction services available in Aotearoa can be better joined and strengthened, laying the groundwork for a more comprehensive and effective addiction treatment system in the future,” said Peter.


Addiction Leadership Day is organised by NCAT, who have been providing systems-level perspectives and leadership to the sector since 2005.