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Welcome Belinda and Gurdip

Belinda McNair and Gurdip Chima have commenced working for The Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory in the new territorial AOD (alcohol and other drugs) unit, as service development officers, under acting territorial alcohol and other drugs (AOD) director Debra Little.

Belinda combines her training with extensive experience working with people. Belinda has a Diploma of Community Development from Holmesglen TAFE College. She also has a Diploma in Dental Nursing and a post-graduate Certificate in Sexual Health Counselling, and is a qualified HIV/Hepatitis C Pre and Post Test Counsellor.

Belinda worked in the AOD and blood-borne virus field for 20 years. This was initially as a volunteer sexual health counsellor, with AIDS Line in the early ’80s. Belinda returned to study community health in 1997; during this time she worked in several needle and syringe programs (NSPses) and then worked as a community health worker (1999-2003), where she helped to establish the first ‘Healthworks’* primary health care facility in Footscray, Vic.

From 2003 to 2007 Belinda served as the City of Melbourne’s senior drugs policy and syringe management officer, before joining the Victoria Government’s department of health. Experiences there included work as the alcohol and drug program and service advisor, the team leader on mental health, and the acting principal advisor for harm reduction and pharmacotherapy services.

A Melbourne ‘Demons’ supporter who has ‘a big soft spot for the Geelong Cats’, Belinda lives with her partner, Michael, her teenage daughter, Casey, and stepson, Declan, and ‘Pepper’ (a kelpie/miniature Collie cross, Pepper is a new addition to the family who enjoys being the centre of attention and vigorous, regular walks).

‘I am a passionate advocate for harm reduction and consumer participation within the AOD sector, and bringing about and preserving a consumer/client focus,’ Belinda says.

Gurdip has also had extensive educational and experiential insights into the AOD sector and related fields, such as mental health.

A Wolverhampton wanderer, from the UK’s Midlands, Gurdip applied for and achieved his current role with The Salvation Army before landing in Australia on 10 June 2012.

Gurdip commenced his service to others after completing his BA (Hons) degree in Sociology in 1993. A Masters degree in Social Work followed, at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. He has worked in a range of social work settings, which include: child protection; child and family residential units; fieldwork teams, across mental health and substance misuse; as well as hospital social work settings.

Gurdip worked in the UK as a qualified and registered social worker/manager for 15 years. He has held various practitioner/clinical and senior management positions across local government and primary health care trusts. 

‘I have a passion to develop social work practice within the field of substance misuse,’ he said. ‘Prior to moving to Australia, I was involved in the education and training of social workers. I’ve lectured in addictions and mental health at my local university and I have written various articles which have been published.’

 ‘I am also passionate about treatment models and pathways for complex care, dual diagnosis, personality disorder, forensic mental health, as well as eating disorders.’

A keen runner and squash player, Gurdip is anticipating some success for his compatriots at the London Olympics, and finds Melbourne’s current weather patterns to be extremely familiar. Gurdip also plays the piano and violin, and has a particular interest in chamber and contemporary classical music.

* Health Works is a primary health care and needle syringe program for people who inject drugs. The program exists to ‘improve the health and wellbeing of people who inject drugs in the western suburbs of Melbourne.’


AOD - Additional

e-connect: What is the scope of your role and interest in the field of AOD (alcohol and other drugs)? 

Belinda McNair: Both Gurdip and I have very broad experience within AOD sector and we bring complimentary but different skill sets to these new positions. I was first attracted to the AOD sector for personal reasons and quickly became aware of the day-to-day stigma and discrimination experienced by individuals with AOD issues. AOD issues are poorly understood by the broader community.

I am interested in all areas of the AOD sector, from treatment and harm reduction interventions, advocacy and improving service quality and experience for consumers. I will be working with services across Victoria and Tasmania.

Gurdip Chima: Deb will be working with the Northern Territory. My role will include working at a strategic level across Western Australia and South Australia, in order to support the development of drug and alcohol services. We will help ensure that they are strategically fit and demonstrate evidence-based practice, as well as productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.

My skill and knowledge base is centred around assessment and care coordination, including psycho-social interventions delivered in treatment services, in order to ensure that people’s needs are being met. My main areas of specialist interest are: dual diagnosis, personality disorder, forensic mental health, eating disorders, as well as marginalised/hard-to-reach groups within substance misuse services.

e-connect: How do we go about setting up and offering holistic therapeutic/treatment solutions?

Belinda: Firstly, we need to get a thorough understanding of all existing Salvation Army AOD-related programs: their operating frameworks, their underpinning philosophies, the issues faced by each program. We then need to establish solid working relationships with staff on the ground.

Gurdip: Through this process, we will then be in a better position to assist in the transformation of AOD services, in order to ensure that services are seamless as possible and holistic in their delivery. The AOD treatment systems in each state will require careful analysis and development with respective partners, in order to ensure that they are cohesive and flexible to respond to need.

e-connect: Where do you think the territory's AOD sector will be in one’s year’s time? Where would you like it to be in five years’ time?

Belinda: That is a little hard to say at this point in time, but we want to at least have all programs mapped and registered, and have future planning and work identified.

Gurdip: Within the next 12 months we aim for services to be able to continue demonstrating, and improve compliance to, the relevant quality standards. This is in order to ensure that service users receive a high quality service. Within five years we are striving for the services to have been transformed, in line with the territory’s strategic direction. Essentially, service users will receive care and treatment that will enable them to develop independence, choice and control over their lives.