Staying on Track

Staying on Track: Reducing Substance Use


The Staying on Track project is a practical application of the findings of the WA Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS). Part of the WAACHS information was collected directly from young people aged 12-17 years. These data provide a solid evidence base for this project and highlight the extent of substance use among young people in both Hedland and Newman.


Through the WAACHS, young people in the Pilbara reported that 22% smoked regularly and that they were more likely to smoke if their parents also smoked. More Aboriginal young women smoke regularly than do Aboriginal young men. Smoking is related to being at high risk of mental health problems. In the Pilbara about 43% of young people who smoked regularly were at high risk compared with those who did not smoke.


The WAACHS also found that for Aboriginal young people in the Pilbara, 24% had drunk alcohol and 12% had drunk to excess, with this being similar for Aboriginal young men and Aboriginal young women. About 24% of Aboriginal young people had used marijuana at some time, with 13% using it at least weekly. About 11% of Aboriginal young people reported the combined use of marijuana, tobacco and alcohol.


The research evidence is clear that alcohol plays a significant role in traffic accidents and other injuries, domestic violence, obesity, increased blood pressure, cancers, mental health disorders and suicide. It is a contributing factor in many divorces and violent crimes and, when used to excess by pregnant women, can result in intellectual disability, congenital abnormalities and low birth weight babies.