The Australian Government Department of Health engaged the Drug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW to develop a National Treatment Framework (NTF). This was a highly consultative project and involved engaging with multiple stakeholders including treatment providers, and consumers and their families and friends, government departments, drug and alcohol peak bodies, primary health networks, and key sector governing bodies.

A National Treatment Framework was first recommended in 2014, as part of the New Horizons: Review of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services in Australia, to provide specific guidance relating to Commonwealth and jurisdictional roles in specialist drug and alcohol treatment planning, commissioning and monitoring. This was echoed in one of the key recommendations under the National Ice Action Strategy (NIAS), the establishment of a National Treatment Framework that clarifies government roles and improves planning across the sector to ensure that communities have the types of services that are required. The development of a National Treatment Framework is important because it would enable a nationally shared strategic vision for alcohol and other treatment and facilitate better treatment planning, commissioning and monitoring, in order to maximise the health outcomes of people with alcohol and other drug problems. A National Treatment Framework would provide the basis for effective, efficient and value for money purchasing decisions, which in turn will lead to the best possible coverage of services, in the places where need is the highest, and articulated with services funded by others.

The goal of the project was to develop and document a National Treatment Framework, with more specific aims to:

  • Conduct comprehensive and thoughtful consultation with the different stakeholders
  • Determine the appropriate principles to be documented in a national framework
  • Ensure representation of input into the Framework from across Australian jurisdictions, and different stakeholder groups
  • Develop an iterative drafting process, resulting in a final document.


The most important aspect of this work was meaningful engagement, at both scale and depth, with all stakeholders, in a practicable manner. The approach and methods provided for multiple types of input and consultation on the proposed National Treatment Framework (NTF), tailored to each stakeholder group, with a focus on ensuring buy-in and due process. These mechanisms were:

  • A National Forum, during which key stakeholders will discuss, debate, and agree to the overall shape and content of the NTF. This will be an all-day face-to-face meeting, held in Sydney with around 80-100 delegates. The outcome will enable the research team to start drafting the NTF. This draft will then be used as the basis for state/territory-based focus groups
  • State/territory-based focus groups, with one held in each jurisdiction. At the end of this process the research team will make appropriate modifications and adjust the draft document
  • Public written submissions will be used as the data collection method to allow for further comments on the final draft. The submissions received will be reviewed by the research team and considered in light of all the other consultations before presenting a revision to the Department. Feedback from the Department will then enable finalisation for submission of the final version of the NTF.

These consultative mechanisms were supplemented with input from the Working Group and the Department of Health throughout the process. The Working Group comprised state/territory health department representatives as well as treatment representatives and was convened by the Department of Health.

Research Centre

Social Policy Research Centre

Research Area

Drug Policy Modelling Program

Australian Government Department of Health

  • Kyla Holmberg, Senior Adviser, Indigenous Alcohol and Other Drugs Section, Health Branch 
  • Marina Bowshall, Director, Drug Policy and Population Health, Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia
  • Helen Taylor, A/g Director, Alcohol and Other Drugs, Strategy, Planning and Partnerships Unit, Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch, Department of Health
  • Sylvia Engels, General Manager, Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Directorate, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Gary Kirby, Director, Prevention Services, Mental Health Commission
  • Tonina Harvey, Principal Program Officer, Clinical Safety and Quality, Alcohol and Other Drugs, Centre for Population Health
  • Emily Harper, ACT Department of Health 
  • Mark Smalley, AOD Treatment Systems Coordinator, Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch, Department of Health
  • Tom Lyons, A/g Manager, Strategy and Policy, Drug Policy & Reform, Health & Wellbeing, Department of Health and Human Services
  • Larry Pierce, CEO, Network of Alcohol and Other Drugs Agencies
  • Rebecca Lang, CEO, Queensland Network of Alcohol and Other Drug Agencies

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