Illegal drugs – minimising harm

Yarra street at night 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 Health Plan 2013-2017 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 pdf format 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

pdf format Drug issues postcard (2.84 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 2013, Council reiterated its support of a trial of a Supervised Injecting Facility (SIF) within the City of Yarra. 

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.

In addition to SIFs, Council supports:

  • extending the hours of needle and syringe programs (NSPs);
  • increasing outreach to people who inject drugs (PWID) during evenings and weekends;
  • enabling peer administered naloxone;
  • enabling peer distributed needles and syringes; and
  • installing syringe vending machines (SVMs).

Does this 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 both  State and Federal Government Policy.

Further information
Sarah Jaggard
Community Advocacy Team Leader 
9205 5160

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