Final Words as CEO

“The future is ours to influence” – Alison Lai, September 2023

These are the final words that I’d like to share as I write my final CEO eNews update. Words from me to everyone who has taken the time to read my updates, to express my sincere belief in the power that we all have to influence the world around us, and to progress meaningful change in our own lives and that of others.

As many are aware, I will be stepping away as CEO of the ATDC at the end of this month to take on the role of CEO of Cancer Council Tasmania.

I have had the opportunity to lead the ATDC for over five years, and it’s been a privilege both personally and professionally.

I have an immense sense of pride for the legacy of work that I leave behind, which has only been possible due to the dedication, determination, and fortitude of the incredible human beings that I have worked alongside over the years.

This work includes the ATDC’s key role in changing the landscape of what lived experience looks like. Not just in the Tasmanian ATOD sector, but also in the broader community sector. This piece of work has been close to my heart, and the establishment of the Lived Experience Advocate Service, our ongoing work to establish a lived experience independent organisation, and the launch of the Tasmanian ATOD Communications Charter and Image Guidelines, are all key highlights of the incredible work we’ve been able to progress in this space.

So too is the continued success and growth of International Overdose Awareness Day, which has grown from the humble beginnings of a small number of folded origami cranes back in 2019, to the important annual event that it has become which has been extremely effective in providing not only a space to remember those we may have lost, but as an effective campaign to raise awareness about drug overdose and to drive conversations about drug use in Tasmania.

While I am proud of the work that we have progressed to retain and secure additional funding for services and programs in the sector, I of course would have loved to have secured much, much more. But I leave knowing that the ATDC and our community-managed organisations are well positioned to continue these discussions into the future whether it be for service delivery, workforce development or to keep alive our long-term attempts to improve how ATOD data is captured and shared.

Over the years there have been many meetings (oh so many meetings) and I know that sector is on the precipice of positive change through the implementation of new reforms, and the embedding of recent initiatives such as peer workers. In another five years, the sector will again look different to what it does today, which will also build upon our work to advocate for drug law reform like the decriminilisation of the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. I look forward to watching this occur (and contributing where I can through the work of Cancer Council Tasmania who are a member of the ATDC).

For those that I have sat across the table from, particularly in government, I know that it hasn’t always been comfortable or straight-forward. The conversations have sometimes been tough, frustrating, and at times relentless. Dare I say, provocative (but oh so important!). I thank everyone along the journey for their generosity of advice, time and willingness to engage – you know who you are!

Finally, thank you to my Board and my team. What a great bunch of humans they are! Dedicated, compassionate and talented but also so much fun. A special thank you to Dr Jackie Hallam, an exceptionally talented human being, ATOD policy expert and leader. She, and the entire team, have been my foundation. I thank them sincerely for consistently going above and beyond and coming on the journey with me (and pretending that they liked my extensive collection of Christmas jumpers!).

As I sign off, I sincerely hope that at the end of the day that I have made a positive contribution through my work for everyday Tasmanians who use drugs, whatever that might be.

Alison Lai
Chief Executive Officer