Illegal drugs - minimising harm
The use and trade of illegal drugs is a significant health and safety issue.
Drug use is a significant health risk for the people who use them, and impacts on their family, friends and the community.
The legislative and policy framework for drugs and crime is set by the Federal and State Government. Harm minimisation has underpinned Federal drug policy since the mid 1980s. Harm minimisation is adopted across all three levels of government.
Harm minimisation is an approach that recognises that total prevention or eradication is not always possible. Drug use is often driven by complex social factors, such as physical and sexual abuse, stress, and quality of parenting. Experiences internationally and in Australia indicate a strong link between poverty and drug use.
Therefore, governments and health services implement strategies that aim to minimise the harm caused to both people who inject drugs and to the wider community.
What does Council do in response to illegal drugs?
Local government is responsible for managing the safety and amenity impacts associated with the impacts of illegal drugs.
Council’s Safer Yarra Plan 2011-2014 sets out strategies to respond to a number of safety issues identified by residents, including responding to illegal drug use. Strategies are largely based on: managing amenity issues such as discarded syringes, and working closely with police, other government services and not-for-profit organisations to ensure a coordinated service response is provided to the community.
The City of Yarra, in conjunction with other local agencies, has developed two new resources around managing illicit drug use issues.
Protocol for the Management of Illicit Drug Use Issues
The Protocol for agencies (691.54 KB) aims to achieve a more coordinated response across Yarra in managing the impact of drug hot spots and improve community confidence in how Council and local agencies manage the impact of illicit drug use across the municipality.
Drug Use Issues in Your Local Area
Drug issues postcard (1.17 MB) contains information around common issues relating to illicit drug use and the most appropriate responses. These issues include drug overdose, public injecting or drug affected persons, personal safety, illegal activity, discarded syringes and neglected property.
Supervised Injecting Facilities
In May 2011, Council resolved to urge the State Government to support a trial of a Supervised Injecting Facility (SIF) and to further investigate the use of closed circuit television cameras as a tool to improve community safety. Here is a media release about Council's call for a trial.
Council understands that one initiative alone - such as a SIF - will not provide a total solution to the illegal drug problem. Council supports a multi-faceted approach to managing illegal drugs, and recognises that there is both a health and police response required.
Supporting research into Supervised Injecting Facilities
In July 2011, Council agreed to contribute $8000 to help fund research into the need for a Supervised Injecting Facility in Yarra. The Burnet Institute, a not-for-profit organisation that undertakes medical research on public health issues, will carry out the research.
Co-funded by the Institute and by the Yarra Drug & Health Forum, the research project will gather evidence about the impact of drug use on public amenity, and about the number, type and frequency of drug overdoses in Yarra.
Supervised Injecting Facilities - Frequently Asked Questions
A community forum about Supervised Injecting Facilities was held at the Richmond Town Hall on 21 July 2011. More information about the facilities is also available in the below responses to some Frequently Asked Questions.
Can Council introduce a Supervised Injecting Facility?
No. A SIF could only be trialled or introduced if changes were made to State legislation.
What positive impacts could a Supervised Injecting Facility have on the community?
Improved public health benefits for both the community and people who inject drugs, including:
- Improved amenity for residents through: less public injecting, less discarded syringes and related injecting equipment, and an improved sense of safety.
- Reduced risk of a needle stick injury for a member of the public
- Reduced spread of HIV and hepatitis C
- More coordinated access to treatment being provided to drug users through the SIF.
A Supervised Injecting Facility has been operating in Kings Cross, Sydney, for more than a decade. An independent evaluation of the facility by KPMG found the facility had reduced drug-related problems in Kings Cross.
The evaluation found the proportion of people who had observed people injecting themselves in public over the previous month fell from 55% in 2000 to 27% in 2010, while the proportion of residents who had come across discarded syringes over the previous month fell from 66% to 46% over the same period.
What problems will still exist even if a SIF is trialled?
Does a Supervised Injecting Facility mean that Council accepts illegal drug use?
Council does not believe it is realistic to think that any actions could put a stop to all illegal drug use. Hence, Council supports a harm minimisation approach which aims to minimise the harm caused through drug use to both people who use drugs and the wider community. This is consistent with the State Government’s policy on managing drugs in Victoria.
Manager - Community & Corporate Planning
Back to top