Keeping Indigenous communities immune from the impact of ice

The remote location of many Indigenous communities has so far, very fortunately, protected them from the impact of ice.

Having said this, illicit drug use and the emergence of ice in particular has been identified as a growing concern for people living in these communities. If ice did manage to take hold in a highly vulnerable, discrete Indigenous community, the result could be devastating.

While alcohol remains the major challenge in Queensland’s discrete Indigenous communities — and marijuana use is also problematic — these communities are at risk of illicit drug use due to unemployment, disengagement, vulnerability and exclusion.

The remoteness of many Indigenous communities will only offer short-term protection from ice.

Remoteness may offer protection against this offensive drug for now, but sadly this is not sustainable. As infrastructure improves in these discrete communities, and as the price of ice continues to decrease, with access routes reaching further into the regions, the level of protection against ice will decrease.

According to research by James Cook University, it took approximately four years for marijuana to become endemic in Indigenous communities in both the Northern Territory and Far North Queensland.

The widespread use of marijuana was enabled by local trafficking links with suppliers outside the communities and enforcement agencies have long held concerns that such links could also facilitate the supply of ice. Recent analysis of wastewater to detect illicit drug use found that methylamphetamine use (which includes ice) is higher in Queensland regions than in metropolitan areas.

Illicit drugs can be found in wastewater, particularly in metropolitan areas.

Given these factors, a similar, four-year window of opportunity may be all that is available to reduce the impact of ice in remote Indigenous communities.

So how do we take advantage of this timeframe?

Recent consultations in the regions on this issue have identified that preventing and treating the effect of ice in these communities will require:

Better community policing will help in the prevention of ice use in remote communities.
  • better community-level understanding of ice and its health and social consequences
  • flexible models of care and support services, as well as flexible community policing
  • culturally appropriate health and social services both in and out of the community.

Have you got a personal story, or feedback on what the Queensland Government is doing to tackle ice?

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