Thirty-eight people in dedicated lived experience roles, from across a wide variety of services in Auckland, recently gathered together at Higher Ground for the 5th Addiction Peer and Consumer Day.

Kohe Pene and the Higher Ground culture group welcomed and opened the day for us with a pōwhiri and a spine-tingling recovery haka. 

The purpose of the day together was connection, and story is a great connector. Maja Varco, a peer support worker with Te Whare Whakapiki Wairua (Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Court), shared her story about her early life in Bosnia, the years of active addiction and her recovery process, and how her lived experience led her into the meaningful work she so enjoys.

Des Corcoran presented about Oasis Centre Gambling Support and how people affected by someone else’s gambling can access this free and confidential service - whether or not the person they are concerned about is making changes.

Dylan Norton and Te Pou Henry from Homecare Medical (the national digital telehealth service) presented about the Alcohol and Drug Helpline. The Helpline offers free counselling and support and is available 24/7 for people concerned about their own or someone else’s use of alcohol and/or other drugs - they do not need to be in crisis to use this service.

Rhonda Robertson and Suzy Morrison gave an update on the Matua Raḵi Consumer Leadership Group’s actions and how dapaanz are scoping an endorsement process for addiction peer support workers.

In the time provided for service updates, Jason George from the Needle Exchange Programme (NESP), joining us for the first time, introduced himself and the service NESP provides, which now includes onsite hepatitis C screening.

Dave Burnside updated the group on the new peer support team he is leading at Odyssey Auckland. It has been in operation for three months and the presence of peers appears to be making a positive difference with both assessment and retention. There is an ongoing evaluation to help capture the difference that peers can make.   

The day offered many opportunities to connect and share both formally and informally. In that spirit, the day came to an end with a lively game of ‘Fruit Salad’, a laugh and a closing round.