Addiction Workforce Development

Addiction Workforce Development - The Aotearoa New Zealand experience: A reflection
Anna Nelson-Programme Manager, Matua Raki.

As I have been thinking about addiction workforce development internationally, I have also been reflecting on what is unique about the Aotearoa New Zealand experience.  There are four key features that seem to have been instrumental in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand’s addiction workforce; Dapaanz (the addiction practitioners association Aotearoa New Zealand); Matua Raki (the national addiction workforce development programme); the role of lived experience and recovery, and the Māori addiction workforce. Each has made a unique contribution to the development and culture of the addiction sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Dapaanz are the professional and registration body for addiction practitioners throughout.

Aotearoa New Zealand.  Dapaanz has provided addiction practitioners with a level of status and ‘professionalism’ that has not historically been afforded to this workforce. Their practitioner competencies, codes of ethics and the registration process has provided a robust and safe practice framework within which addiction practitioners can work.

Matua Raki  are Aotearoa New Zealand’s national addiction workforce development centre. They work to build the capability and capacity of the specialist addiction sector, as well as others who may work with people with problematic substance use.  Matua Raki utilises a comprehensive approach that includes initiatives at infrastructure and organisational levels, as well as training, education, recruitment and retention activities aimed at workforce planning and individual practitioner competency. They are funded and supported by the Ministry of Health, and this partnership has been fundamental in the implementation of Matua Raki’s work.

A large part of the history of the AOD workforce in Aotearoa New Zealand belongs to people.

with a lived experience of addiction and recovery. In more recent years the importance of peer focused roles (including peer support workers and consumer advisors) has become increasingly apparent as people with a lived experience of addiction and recovery begin to recognise their unique skills and experience as part of a diverse addiction workforce. While a number of people with lived experience go on to train in ‘clinical’ practice, others, recognising that peer work has its own distinct history and philosophy of practice, prefer peer and consumer focussed roles that overtly utilise their lived experience. New Zealand has seen the development of peer support focused training and education; models of practice and peer support supervision, and in 2014 a set of Competencies for the mental health and addiction service user, consumer and peer workforce were co-produced with peers across the mental health and addiction sectors.

Unfortunately there continue to be disparities in the health and social wellbeing of Māori in a number of key areas as the history of colonisation and its associated trauma remains ever present.  Over the years however there has been a strong vision for a collective Māori voice that could advocate for Māori focussed interventions which has grown and developed. Since the 1980’s this has included specialised Māori addiction training and education, specialised Māori addiction treatment services, Māori practitioner competencies and a Māori addiction workforce development strategy.  Coupled with this, there is now a very clear expectation that all non-Māori addiction practitioners are sufficiently culturally competent to provide an appropriate service to Māori and their whānau (extended family). The importance and recognition of Māori models of understanding health and wellbeing including addiction, and the inclusion and importance of tikanga (Māori customs, lore, correct procedure, rules, and guidelines)  and collectivist knowledge has benefited not only Māori and others (for example Pasifika) but has helped to contextualise and enhance western models of intervention in the Aotearoa context.

Anna Nelson has recently published a chapter on workforce development and professionalisation in The Sage Handbook of Alcohol and Drug Studies.

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