We have submitted the following letter to the editor of the Herald Sun to express our concerns about a highly stigmatising and inflammatory front page article on welfare payments to people who use methamphetamine.  It has not been published, but the paper has published this response by Mark Zirnsak, Director of the Uniting Church's Justice and International Mission unit.  For more on the Federal Government's rhetoric about the proposed welfare reforms, see our recent opinion piece.

Read more: Stigmatising rhetoric a prelude to Federal welfare reforms? (20/10/16)

The following letter to the editor was submitted on 27/07/16. It has not been published.

Given The Age’s recent interest in exposing poor service quality and exploitative marketing practices by for-profit providers of alcohol and other drug treatment services, I was surprised to see the paper publishing a blatant promotional piece for such a service (The Cabin Chiang Mai: back from the brink of addiction).

While positive stories about recovery are always welcome, this piece provides the same unfounded claims of effectiveness that perpetuate the myth that for-profit services provide better outcomes than those funded by government. The unquestioned claim that the service’s ‘sobriety success rates far outstrip those offered by Australian rehabilitation services’ is pure marketing and should not go unchallenged.

Any services promising ‘cures’ to vulnerable and desperate families should be held to account, particularly given the huge sums they charge for what is often little more than 12-step groups (that are available at no cost within all communities) together with accommodation and meals.
A hotel review where the journalist ‘was a guest of’ the establishment is one thing, a sponsored advertorial for a treatment service is another matter altogether. It does not belong in The Age.

Laurence Alvis
CEO, UnitingCare ReGen


Note: We did receive a response from Fairfax (on 01/08/16), apologising for the content of the article and advising that most concerning paragraph had been removed from the online version of the story. When we last checked, the paragraph was still included via the orginial link). We are currently seeking publication of a longer response to media coverage of for-profit services and will post the link, when it's available.

Melbourne, VIC, 24th May 2016 – Together with partners Children’s Protection Society, the University of Toronto and the University of Melbourne, UnitingCare ReGen today welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement of new funding for this partnership to provide targeted family violence programs for vulnerable families, including those affected by alcohol and other drug use.

Read more: ReGen welcomes funding for 'Caring Dads' family violence program (23/05/16)