Publications & Reports

Coming of age: 21 years of providing opioid substitution treatment within an Aboriginal community-controlled primary health service.

Freeburn B, Loggins S, Lee KSK, Conigrave KM
The Drug and Alcohol Unit, Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern Cooperative, Sydney, Australia.


In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health services have been established since 1971 to provide accessible, quality and culturally-appropriate primary healthcare. The first of these services, the Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative Redfern (‘the AMS’), created its own Drug and Alcohol Unit (‘the Unit’) in 1999. The Unit initially prescribed opioid substitution treatment (OST) and its coordinator, Bradley Freeburn, a Bundjalung man, provided counselling. Soon afterwards, the Unit started dispensing OST. It now cares for around 150 individuals, each of whom is understood in the context of family, community and culture. The Unit is on the same site as the AMS’s primary care service, specialised medical and mental health clinics, and dental clinic. This allows for integrated physical and mental health care. The Unit contributes to drug and alcohol workforce development for other AMS staff, state-wide and nationally. Several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health services around Australia now offer OST prescription, and a small number administer slow-release buprenorphine. We are not aware of others that dispense Suboxone. In the USA and Canada, over the last 10 years, First Nations communities have also responded to lack of treatment access, by creating standalone OST clinics. We were not able to find examples of Maori-controlled OST clinics in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The feasibility of this model of readily accessible OST, situated within a holistic, culturally-grounded primary health-care service recommends it for consideration and evaluation, for Indigenous or non-Indigenous communities.

Link to publisher’s web site


  • Journal: Drug and Alcohol Review
  • Published: 01/01/2022
  • Volume: 41
  • Issue: 1
  • Pagination: 260-264