Media Statement: Happy birthday to the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre

This month marks twenty-three years since the opening of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in King's Cross. With no deaths from drug overdose on the premises since the beginning of operation, this is an incredible milestone, delivering decades of lifesaving, compassionate and evidence-based care to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

In 1999, the Carr Government hosted a NSW Drug Summit that recommended the establishment of a medically supervised injecting centre.

In the years since, the Centre has provided supervision for over 1.28 million injections, provided clinical support during 11,371 overdoses without a single death, and made nearly 23,000 health and welfare referrals. The Centre has become a model of care for harm reduction across the globe.

The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre is a story of evidence-based harm reduction policy in action. Yet, the current NSW Government has seemingly stalled on the further progress it promised.

Last week NSW Council for Civil Liberties came together with leaders in the sector including Uniting, ACON, Unharm, Drug Offender Program and USYD to talk about what’s driving this inaction and what can, and should, happen to reform NSW Drug Laws.

The promised Drug Summit is an election commitment that has not yet been delivered. It should be an opportunity to recast the problematic use of drugs as a matter of public health policy with whole of government implications, but we are yet to have a date. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Uniting, ACON, Unharm and the Drug Offender Program call on the Minns Government to commit to a date and to a community inclusive agenda for the 2024 Drug Summit.

SIGN OUR PETITION HERE calling on all NSW Parliamentarians to support a 2024 NSW Drug Summit which takes an all of government approach, and the program includes public forums, regional and rural engagement, diverse and multicultural communities; meaningful engagement with stakeholders across festivals, nightlife venues, community groups, legal and justice stakeholders, the education sector and the health sector.

Comments from Dr Marianne Jauncey, Medical Director, Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre

“In Australian society all people should be treated equally and fairly. Currently in NSW, drug laws create a wildly conflicting and hypocritical environment and simply do not work. If you are vulnerable, if you are a First Nations person, if you're living in a disadvantaged community and if you have less access to education, the laws will predominantly negatively affect you, and that's just simply not fair.

At the end of the day, we need three simple things. The law should protect people, it should support people and it should ensure people can live, connected, flourishing lives. On every one of those issues our current drug laws fail.”

Comments from Georgina Bell, Manager Harm Reduction, ACON

ACON has a proud history of community-led responses to LGBTQ+ health      , including effective harm reduction programs and support services related to drug use. We have led the way in peer and community led programs through strong and authentic community connection.
To date, funding from the NSW Government for harm reduction programs and services for sexuality and gender diverse people has been minimal, ad-hoc and has in no way reflected the scale and disproportionate burden our communities face. The current drug laws disproportionately impact and harm First Nations peoples, low socioeconomic communities, immigrant communities, and LGBTQ+ communities,  this needs to change.

The NSW government has promised a Drug Summit for 2024 and we emphasise that it must be centred around people with lived and living experiences and it must deliver meaningful change for those most affected by the failed current policies.”

Comments from Will Tregoning, Director, Unharm

“I see the reality of who actually gets criminalised under current NSW drug laws, and it's not people like me. I'm almost invisible walking the streets of the Cross. Time and time again I've walked past people being stopped and searched by the police and it is always First Nations people and or vulnerable groups such as people experiencing homelessness, people exhibiting the signs of mental illness or poverty or chaotic lives. Our current drugs are not fit for purpose, they are unfair and unjust and this must change. Chris Minns has been missing in action on this since becoming Premier. In opposition Mr Minns talked up drug law reform, he spoke about decriminalising cannabis and he made an election commitment to hold a NSW Drug Summit in 2024. We will hold Mr Minns accountable for that promise and so will our large supporter base. We call on the Premier to announce a community centred, 5 day Drug Summit, as promised, to be held before the end of the year.”

Comments from Dr Ben Mostyn, University of Sydney

“We don't need state intervention for every single person who touches a drug. We don't need NSW Police with sniffer dogs, stopping, searching and strip searching our kids at music festivals. Searching young people trying to find one or two ecstasy pills wastes huge resources and can cause enormous trauma to the individuals involved. We know the vast majority of the people who use these drugs recreationally will have no harm at all and will probably have a positive experience. We need drug laws that are fit for purpose.”

Comments from Jimmy Finnane, Drug Offender Program

“We offer an online course, Drug Offender Program, for people who have been charged with drug offences. Our training is inclusive and person centred. It’s been evaluated and we have an outstanding, 98% completion rate. This is the type of thing that the government could and should be investing in. People centred programs that give individuals the resources they need to stay out of jail and get treatment. It is more cost effective and it is certainly better for individuals, their families and society.”

Comments from Nicholas Cowdery AO KC, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

“Current drug law in NSW is intellectually offensive to me because it is not rational. It's not based on logic. Politics and shock jocks have completely muddied the water. The criminal law in NSW is particularly ill suited to dealing with people who are involved in drug use. It's a blunt instrument that doesn't address the underlying issues driving drug use. It fails time and time and time again. It’s a terrible waste of resources to prosecute the many people who use drugs who should be able to access health services rather than jail. We can and must do better.”