Developed as part of a host of fresh initiatives under the State Governments ‘Safe Night Out Strategy’, the program will provide guidelines for teachers as well as resources that are tailored to each year level.
Paul Dillon, director and founder of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, said the program is unique because its content and style of delivery has been designed with the latest research in mind.
“It was a process where they looked at all of the evidence that we have now on what works in terms of young people, and I suppose particularly what we know about how young people take in information,” he told Australian Teacher Magazine.
“I think that so often lots of resources are all about just giving young people information and thinking that's going to fix the problem, but essentially this [program] is much more about saying drug and alcohol education is not information-provision, it’s all about giving them practical skills, strategies and practical discussions that are based in the latest research around young people, particularly around prevention,” he said.
The comprehensive program is expected to cover topics such as harm minimisation, attitudes and social expectations of drug and alcohol consumption, as well as the more specific risks associated with binge drinking, illicit drug use and alcohol and drug-related violence.
Dillon praised the government’s decision to enforce the program across all year levels and said that its holistic approach to these problems will address some large loopholes in the current education system.
“The group that tends to get ignored here is usually Year 11 and 12, they’re in their final two years of high school and it’s all about getting their final exams done and all of that sort of stuff, so what you tend to find is that stuff around basic life skills disappears.
“What’s interesting here is that the government has said that every state school has to roll this out to Year 11 and 12 before the end of the year – you can teach them everything about ancient history and everything else and that’s fantastic, but realistically if they are not alive, it’s probably not really going to be much use to them,” he said.
Dillon believes the program’s shift towards providing practical skills, rather than simply stating risks, will change the way in which students process and then hopefully implement the information.
“I know they've changed the messages quite dramatically, what I loved about what they decided to do [was] they decided to completely revamp the sorts of messages and to look at them from a very practical perspective, so what kids can actually use.
“Telling kids not to do something, I mean their brains are not going to work like that, but if we can give them things that they think are useful that will help them with their social life and their friends ... it’s very much based as well on looking after each other, which works very well.
“Young people are certainly aware of the risks but they don’t think it will happen to them.
"They are, however, certainly aware that it could happen to their friends, so if you change the context a little bit to that, I think that’s a very important element,” he said.
Queensland's Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said that the program seeks to change the social and cultural attitudes towards alcohol and drug-related behaviours and to flag violent behaviour as being unacceptable.
“The program promotes the ability to make responsible, safe and informed decisions so all Queenslanders can enjoy going out at night with safety,” he said in a statement.
The program will also be made available to all non-government secondary schools.