When Paul Dillon checks his Instagram feed on a Saturday night, he knows his message about drug and alcohol education is getting through.

Mr Dillon is the founder and director of DARTA – Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia – and on Tuesday he was back at Iona College for his popular annual seminars with our Year 10, 11 & 12 students.

“I am not here to tell them what to do, or do scare stories,” Mr Dillon said. “It is much more about strategies and ways of dealing with situations around alcohol and drugs.

“I see the students in years 10, 11 and 12 for three talks over three years. I have been coming here since 2018, so five years now.

“It is always a pleasure to come to Iona. The young men here are among those most polite and most respectful that I get to speak to around the country. The talks always seem to be received really well, because they are all about keeping them safe.”

Mr Dillon’s seminars cover a wide range of information around drugs and alcohol, opening the eyes of many students who were oblivious to the dangers, and the physical damage that can be done – most critically to teenagers’ still-developing brains.

“The brain stuff is an interesting area with this, because the brains of young men develop quite a bit later than those of young women,” he said. “The boys are never too thrilled to hear that information. But it certainly explains some of the behaviour that we see during adolescence.”

Mr Dillon said the response from Iona students to what they learn at the seminars, and the knowledge that his training is helping to shape and potentially save lives, made his job much easier.

“When you do these types of things, you just hope that you make a difference,” he said. “There is no simple way of working out whether you do.

“Young people sometimes write to me, thanking me because of some incident that they experienced on the weekend. I hear that quite a lot which is terrific.

“At this school, I get a tremendous response. It is always a very positive response. Even just walking through the school, I get a lot of young men call out my name and stop to have a chat, which is just great.

“Through the year, a lot of Iona boys through social media send me photos of what their Saturday nights look like to share on my Instagram feed, just around situations they have avoided or things like that. It is pretty special.

“I certainly don’t say this for every school, but it is an absolute pleasure to come to Iona.”