Reducing drug-related harm should be our priority

Published

February 23, 2022

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Uniting Vic.Tas, one of Victoria’s largest alcohol and drug treatment providers, supports the intent of the Bill to be tabled by Reason Party MP Fiona Patten in State Parliament to decriminalise the use and possession of small quantities of illicit drugs in Victoria.

At Uniting Vic.Tas, we provide adult and youth withdrawal, rehabilitation, and counselling services as well as outreach and home-based support across the state and work closely with those involved in criminal justice system.

Our colleagues at Uniting NSW/ACT have campaigned to decriminalise the use and possession of small quantities of illicit drugs in these jurisdictions for many years with Uniting opening the first safe injecting room at Kings Cross, Sydney in 2001.

Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike said Uniting Vic.Tas is in favour of a harm minimisation approach to the use and possession of small quantities of illicit drugs.

“We think this proposed Bill is an important step in the right direction,” Ms Pike said.

“Sadly, there’s widespread possession and use of illicit drugs in our community, but we know that criminalising this just hasn’t worked – it hasn’t stopped or significantly reduced drug use nor has it reduced drug-related harm.

“We believe there has to be a new approach, one which acknowledges drug use as a health issue through harm minimisation. This will ultimately save lives.

“However, if we’re going to direct the focus on harm minimisation and treatment programs, these programs need to be properly funded and resourced for it to be effective.”

Uniting Acting General Manager Alcohol and Other Drugs services, Adrian Webber, said early intervention and treatment is the key to minimising the harm associated with drug use.

“Every day, we see the harm of illicit drug dependence and the impact on both the individual and their loved ones,” Mr Webber said.

“We see the devastating impact for people who get caught up in the criminal justice system for using small amounts of illicit substances and the long-term impact this can have on them.

“A health and harm minimisation first approach will remove some of the stigma, but most importantly, it will help more people to begin their road to recovery.”

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