Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Ledger's dad to speak at Rotorua conference

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Late actor Heath Ledger. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
Late actor Heath Ledger. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

The father of late Hollywood actor Heath Ledger is among several speakers who will share their knowledge at an addiction conference in Rotorua next week.

Australian Kim Ledger, whose Oscar-winning son died from an accidental overdose of prescription medications in 2008, is now the patron of Scriptwise - a NGO aiming to prevent prescription medication misuse and overdose fatalities in Australia.

Hundreds of addiction specialists from around New Zealand and the world are expected in Rotorua as part of The Addiction Practitioners' Association's 21st annual Cutting Edge Conference.

The conference is held each year in a different place in New Zealand and usually attracts more than 400 delegates from the addiction treatment sector both here and overseas.

It is chiefly organised by the Addiction Practitioners' Association Aotearoa New Zealand with support from the Health Promotion Agency and the Ministry of Health.

The theme of the conference, Celebrating transformation, lends itself to highlighting
transformative practice for individuals and families, organisations and communities.

Mr Ledger decided to accept the role of patron when he realised his family was not alone with regard to the escalating public health issues.

He will share his family's perspective and talk about the way dependency could start from being prescribed medications after a mishap at home, work, a car accident or physical injury.

Other speakers include Kiwi comedian Mike King, who started The Nutters Club after sharing his own experience with mental illness and addiction on late-night talk back radio.

Tauranga mother of two and grandmother Haydee Richards will share her experience of drug addiction which lasted 27 years, before she wound up in prison.

Since then she has turned her life around and is now a senior peer support worker for Emerge Aotearoa the Phoenix Centre.

Other themes the conference will look at include the problems addiction brings, and how it can strike anyone, but how treatment worked and could change lives.

It would also look at how stigma and discrimination pose a barrier to recovery, and the way the New Zealand society had a big role to play in becoming more accepting of people who were recovering.

It looks at how addiction is a health issue, and not a criminal one, and that it is in society's interest for significant resources to be allocated to treatment and intervention for addicted people.

Speakers at the conference include:
- Kim Ledger, patron of ScriptWise and father of late Hollywood actor Heath Ledger
- Kiwi comedian Mike King
- Australian criminology professor David Best

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