A big step forward in Uniting’s long walk to drug reform
This article is sponsored by Uniting, the Board of the NSW and ACT Synod of the Uniting Church responsible for the work of community services, chaplaincy and social justice advocacy.
A packed Sydney Town Hall on October 12 cheered the launching of Fair Treatment, a campaign for long overdue drug law and policy reform.
The campaign, led by the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT and its services agency Uniting, has now gathered the support of 57 organisations – representing a diverse constituency including health and medical professionals, drug users and their families and friends, law and enforcement professionals, religious faiths and many other communities.
The campaign advocates for increased funding for drug treatment and greater investment in harm reduction strategies, and to deal with personal drug use as an issue of health and community, not of criminal justice.
Fair Treatment was officially launched in front of a Town Hall crowd of 2,000 people – who heard speakers including Dr Khalid Tinasti and Sir Richard Branson of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Dr Marianne Jauncey of Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, the Uniting Church NSW and ACT Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford, and Uniting Executive Director Tracey Burton.
The audience also saw and heard poignant videos of three women personally affected by the issue, all urging a change of government policies to save lives and provide a better chance to turn them around.
Said the Moderator: “Our faith compels us to nurture, support, care and offer hope and life for everybody in our society – especially those who are marginalised or disadvantaged, who are often those most affected by drug policy.”
The main speakers agreed that the so-called “war on drugs” has been a worldwide failure. Sir Richard pointed out that it “has been going on now for nearly 60 years – as an entrepreneur and a businessman, if something failed so abysmally, we would have closed it down 59 years ago.”
The launch was followed by a “Long Walk to Treatment” which relayed a message to NSW Parliament from Dubbo, setting out on October 15 and arriving in Macquarie Street on November 2. It aimed to highlight the alarming gaps in services for people seeking drug and alcohol treatment – particularly for women with children and people in rural and remote communities. Uniting has recorded the personal stories of many of those walking for a documentary now in production.
Community opinion is moving more strongly behind reform. Sixty-four per cent of Australians support a non-criminal response to heroin use, and as many as 88 per cent support decriminalising cannabis.
The campaign is calling for a People’s Treatment Summit – bringing together politicians, healthcare and enforcement professionals, people with personal experience and other stakeholders to seek well-evidenced reforms.
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