Ms Carrie Fowlie

Executive Officer, Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA)
February 2015
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drug sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will... be cooking up a feast to celebrate our 20th anniversary as Australian citizens. The recent Asian Cup showcased Australia at its best - fair, diverse and engaged. It was a celebration of what is possible.

I wish I'd never... I try not to have regrets, just many mistakes.

I'd originally planned to work... in elite sport, as I'd been quite a good swimmer. However, my trajectory changed suddenly when I was 21 and visited remote communities in the Northern Territory. I was shocked by the disparate living conditions, health, wealth and opportunities. I was ashamed by the national silence surrounding it and the part I had in that. From that moment onwards, I committed to work towards social justice.

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are... the generosity of their hearts and minds. Our sector is made up of people who happily and openly share their expertise and experience - and who help others, like myself, to understand their work and its implications.

I'll never forget... the time and opportunities others have given with me, particularly David McDonald who has mentored me over the last 7 years.

If I had more time, I'd... start reading novels again and volunteer more. If I had more work time I'd spend six months working on a single policy issue.

I'm most scared of... people being and feeling silenced, forgotten, disconnected and uncared for – particularly people who use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and their families and friends.

For my next holiday... I'll be in Portugal, where I will relax and over-indulge. Then I will learn from some of the worlds best minds at the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP) Conference in Belgium.

I can't get enough of... drug policy. It is endlessly fascinating in an ever-dynamic and often obstructive environment. I enjoy working with people to find ways for complex issues to be broken down into parts that can be understood, implemented and that matter.

I'm really terrible at... saying no to taking on more work, playing cricket (although I watch it a lot) and measuring quantities when I cook.

My big hope for the drug and alcohol sector is... to be a leader in translational research, where people who use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and their families are placed at the centre. Today, it takes about 17 years for evidence to be implemented into practice. Through investing in and prioritising translational research, the wealth of knowledge available will be amplified and result in greater practical applications and lead to huge health and other outcomes. Translational research has a multiplier effect that leverages the work our sector does in treatment, harm reduction and other areas. We need to embed and fund structures and processes, including translational research, to achieve stronger interaction and integration between service consumers and their families, practitioners, services, researchers, peak bodies and policy makers.

The sector's biggest challenge going forward is... to remain grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, and to maintain Australia's harm minimisation policy and its three pillars of harm reduction, demand reduction and supply reduction. We need to be strong and viable with sufficient resources to deliver services, innovate and continuously improve. We also need to rebuild lost ground. Over the last year our losses have included the defunding of the:

  • National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC): our national voice and expertise on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues
  • Alcohol and other Drug Council of Australia (ADCA): our national peak
  • National Drug Sector Information Services (NDSIS): our (and the world's largest) AOD library.

Further, we've lost the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANDC) which was the principal advisory body to the Australian Government on drug policy and played a critical role in ensuring the voice of the community was heard. The Prime Minister had appointed the membership since its establishment in 1998.

A new structure has been established in its place, the Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs (ANACAD). I understand it has a reduced role (including scope and independence), funding, members (including numbers and diversity) and status.

Career wise, I'm most proud of... being part of teams that have established the peak body for the ACT; enabled peer distribution of naloxone; elevated tobacco as a priority within drug treatment and support services; and, taken a collaborative rather than adversarial approach to working with government.

Ms Carrie Fowlie, Executive Officer, ATODA

Carrie Fowlie has held diverse roles in both the alcohol, tobacco and other drug and youth sectors in the areas of workforce development and social policy. She worked collaboratively to establish the new Australian Capital Territory (ACT) alcohol, tobacco and other drug sector peak body, for which she is now the Executive Officer. She has been a member of several boards (e.g., the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) Board), and has also held several ACT Ministerial appointments, including those focused on police, crime prevention and Legal Aid. Carrie has worked for social justice, in reconciliation, with Stolen Generations members and in community development. Her work in the youth sector resulted in her being awarded the ACT Outstanding Contributions to Young People Award. Carrie is a strong advocate for evidence informed practice, public health and social justice.