If you want the most accurate, up-to-date research and information around alcohol and others drugs, Paul Dillon is your man. Holy Spirit College, Bellambi and St Joseph’s, Albion Park were fortunate to host the founder and director of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA) this week as he worked with local students, parents and staff on a wide range of alcohol and other drug issues among young people.
Dillon delivered nine high-quality presentations over 48 hours in the Illawarra - a separate, tailored session for each senior year level at both schools during the days, an inservice session for staff in the afternoon and information sessions for parents and caregivers on both evenings.
Having worked in the area of drug education for the past 25 years, and with DARTA playing a key role in disseminating research findings to policy makers, drug and alcohol workers and the general public, Dillon is across all the current drug trends within the community. He uses his extensive knowledge to provide revealing facts and figures, and instructive advice.
Dillon presents education sessions to hundreds of school communities right across Australia to ensure they have access to best-practice drug education and information. Those who attended his sessions at our two Catholic secondary schools this week - students, teachers and parents alike - immediately felt the benefit of his specialised experience and wealth of insights across a range of relevant subject areas.
St Joseph’s Learning Technology Co-ordinator, Cameron Dribbus said the great thing about Dillon’s presentations is that they’re not “just another drug and alcohol information session”, but a practical guide for students to engage in ways to keep each other safe, particularly at such a critical age.
"Paul Dillon is a great friend of the Diocese and an incredible public presenter. He is able to tailor his presentations to the right audience and address issues with the students that teachers or parents could not do."
"Paul was also able to present a session to the staff about drug and alcohol statistics in current society and ways in which teachers can help in keeping young people safe."
Holy Spirit Pastoral Programs Co-ordinator, Adam Lawson, also acknowledged the great value of Dillon's regular association with CEDoW for both our students and parents. He said Holy Spirit has been very fortunate to have worked with Dillon for the past ten years.
“Each year, Paul adds a little bit more to the presentations and you always learn something new,” he said.
“From his sessions, I have seen a clear change in students' attitudes where now, the designated driver or the elected sober person is a valuable member to have as a friend and they know how to look after themselves and others.”
“I now also get students asking me every year for the date and time Paul is visiting again - such is the power of Paul’s presentations and the high esteem the students hold him in."
YEAR 10 STUDENT PRESENTATION - Young people, alcohol and risk taking: Looking after your mates
Focusing primarily on alcohol, Dillon used this introductory session with Year 10 students to debunk some of the myths in this space - particularly around how to look after friends. To help ensure young people make healthier choices, he provided up-to-the-minute statistics and credible information on the latest prevalence rates of alcohol and other drug use by secondary school students. Throughout his presentation, he focused on ‘positive norms’ - for example, that many young people choose not to drink alcohol or use other drugs. Basic life skills were also canvassed, particularly around alcohol-related emergencies and knowing when to call an ambulance.
Year 10 Holy Spirit student, Lucy, said her year thoroughly enjoyed Dillon’s presentation.
“Many of us responded to Paul’s talk by taking away strategies on how to party safe and how to protect ourselves and our friends in different situations. We were informed on what to do in emergencies and how to help each other if in harm or danger, and in some cases, ways to just to stay alive,” she said.
“Paul Dillon’s approach to this topic helped Year 10, as he spoke in a way that made us feel comfortable with his humorous and knowledgeable approach. I know for sure that all of our year came out of the talk feeling positive about our future and how to stay safe.”
Year 11 STUDENT PRESENTATION - Alcohol and cannabis: What if something goes wrong?
Dillon’s Year 11 presentation reviewed and built upon the practical strategies around looking after your friends that were introduced in the Year 10 session. He provided information on cannabis, once again highlighting ‘positive norms’ like the fact a majority of young people do not use the drug and use has declined over the years. Dillon explored potential cannabis-related harms, with an emphasis on the drug’s impact on a person's mental health. Students listened carefully to advice about the warning signs that could indicate a person may be experiencing problems with their cannabis use. The impact of alcohol on the adolescent brain was also examined in the session, with Dillon emphasising the potential risks of drinking during the teen years.
Year 11 student from St Joseph’s, Noah, said he thought this would be “an average talk about not doing drugs and drinking alcohol.” To his delight, it was very different to what he and his friends expected.
“Paul was a great presenter and his message was well expressed and clear for young people. It was an engaging presentation," he said.
"Paul presented great information about how to safely deal with intoxicated people and to keep each other safe. The information he gave us will help our generation be more aware of the dangers of some methods young people use to help each other at parties and when drinking. Tips such as eating a fist full of food, are small, yet practical ways of staying safe as a teenager.”
Year 12 STUDENT PRESENTATION - Last year at school: What do I need to know about alcohol and other drugs?
By their final year of school, many students will either be driving or about to get their licence. To ensure these young drivers are as prepared as possible, Dillon used this session with Year 12 to provide information about drink driving and the process of random breath testing (RBT), as well as roadside (RDT) and mobile drug testing (MDT). He discussed with students some basic facts about ecstasy/MDMA, including the impact that being caught with an illicit substance can have on a young person’s life, and the importance of seeking help as quickly as possible should something go wrong.
Year 12 Holy Spirit student, Olivia, said she appreciated Dillon’s focus on the precautions that young people need to take while driving when they’ve used alcohol or drugs.
“Although it was clear the danger of driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Paul Dillon made us aware of all the young people risking their licence driving after a night out, relaying surprising statistics and information about Random Breath Tests and Mobile Drug Tests,” she said.
“The presentation was extremely useful as we head into our final year of school and a time of celebration."
PARENT INFORMATION SESSIONS
Dillon’s two free evening information sessions - one at Holy Spirit and one at St Joseph’s - offered parents and guardians in both the northern and southern Illawarra an engaging education and support in dealing with drug, alcohol and party-related issues involving their children. He presented a combination of two of his topics for 2018 - information and slides for both can be found below:
Topic 1 - Alcohol and the teenage brain: “Aren’t they just doing what we did, and we turned out okay?”
Recent research has provided us with far more information on the impact alcohol has on the developing brain. Not only does alcohol have different effects on an adolescent brain compared to an adult brain, we now know that exposure to alcohol during this key time of development can result in permanent brain changes.
Dillon says that unfortunately, many parents dismiss this science, believing they drank alcohol in their teens and there’s nothing wrong with them. So he used this opportunity to briefly examine Australia’s relationship with alcohol and the drinking patterns of our school-based young people. He then went on to discuss the latest research on alcohol and the teenage brain. Together, the group canvassed a parent’s role in keeping young people safe during this period, with Dillon offering practical strategies and tips provided that could help prevent, or at least delay alcohol use.
Topic 2 - Top 5 questions parents ask about alcohol: What does the research tell us?
According to the latest data, growing numbers of Australian secondary school students are choosing not to drink alcohol, classifying themselves as ‘non-drinkers’. Even so, Dillon says that at least half of children have tried alcohol by the age of 12 and it continues to be the most popular and problematic drug used by teenagers. Many parents struggle in this area, unsure of how to deal with alcohol appropriately.
Dillon used the latest information and research to answer some of the questions most commonly asked by parents in this area, including: 'Should I allow my child a glass of wine with a meal?'; 'Does my drinking affect how my child drinks?'; and 'What should we be doing and what shouldn’t we be doing when it comes to alcohol?'.
Dillon also referred to the ‘Emergency+’ app during his presentations this week. This app, developed by Australia's emergency services and their Government and industry partners, is available as a free download on iTunes. The app uses a mobile phone's GPS functionality, so callers can provide emergency services with their location information quickly and easily, as determined by their smartphone. It also includes SES and Police Assistance Line numbers as options, so non-emergency calls are made to the most appropriate number.
Feedback from the sessions was overwhelmingly positive, with many parents describing the event as “very worthwhile”.
"The evening session was very well received by parents,” Mr Dribbus confirmed, “they were also excited to hear of his return to the school in 2019."
Both schools thanked Dillon for his dedication and efforts in doing a remarkable nine sessions with them across just two days and nights - amounting to a total of 15 hours of non-stop speaking from the presenter!
For those who missed out, Paul Dillon also has a blog where he discusses topical issues of the day, as well as addressing some of the questions and queries he is regularly asked by those attending his presentations. His best-selling book for parents is titled 'Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs'.