Changing of the guard

When asked why he took on the job of Construction Industry Drug and Alcohol Foundation co-ordinator, Tony Papa’s answer comes easily: “I like helping people.

The Program’s new co-ordinator, who has recently taken over from Trevor Sharp, has a long history of involvement with the trade union movement.

About eight years ago, Papa became the Secretary of the Building Trades Group of Unions and through this became a member on the BTG Drug & Alcohol Committee.

Long-serving Program co-ordinator Trevor Sharp had to step down from his position on sick leave at the end of last year, and Papa was initially appointed to run the Program for a few months while a full-time replacement could be found.

“I have always supported the Foundation and the work it does. I was asked to step in for a short period, but as it turned out I decided to take it on full-time. I like helping people.”

Papa was quick to mention the extraordinary work done by Trevor Sharp to build up the Program and its treatment centre, Foundation House.

“Trevor’s contribution to the foundation is not only remarkable but extraordinary. His work established the foundation so well that today it is highly regarded and recognised, both nationally and internationally, by many people in the drug, alcohol rehabilitation and mental health areas.”

Since accepting the new job, Papa has quickly moved to establish new priorities that include:

  • Securing ongoing funding
  • Improving vending machines and canteen contracts
  • Setting up BTG & Foundation House websites
  • Assessing the fee structures for Foundation House residents
  • “The biggest challenge for a not-for-profit organisation is always funding. We need funding to continue to provide a service, not just to the industry but to the general community. Any assistance we can get is vital. It all helps.”

    Papa says the Program doesn’t get recurrent funding from Government and still hasn’t received its 2011 funding yet. He says Lend Lease this year will make Foundation House the focus of its annual community day this year, which he is delighted about and hopes other companies will emulate.

    As well as the work the Program does in drugs, alcohol and gambling prevention and treatment services, Papa says a growing area of concern is suicide prevention.

    “It’s a huge and growing problem. Queensland figures show construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than in an accident at work.”

    Papa says the Program will look at a prevention strategy similar to Queensland’s Mates in Construction.

    He also wants to tackle binge drinking in 12 to 24-year-olds.

    But a key priority for Papa is promoting the excellent facility of Foundation House. “It’s the best-kept secret of all time. I was surprised how many people don’t know about us. I will be trying to preach the gospel to a wider audience.”

    The mission of Foundation House is to introduce people to themselves with the fervent hope that one day they may become friends”.

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