LFDLR at the Victorian Labor Party Conference

Over the weekend Labor for Drug Law Reform VIC brought their policy platform to the 2019 Victorian State Labor Conference to resounding support.

– We held a marketplace stall to talk with Delegates and Labor Members.
– We hosted a Fringe Event where Nina Taylor MP, Dr Alex Wodak and Victorian Secretary of HACSU Paul Healey addressed the future of Harm Reduction in Victoria and discussed the MSIC.
– Finally, our urgency motion unanimously passed. The Victorian Labor Party officially supports Harm Reduction as the best practice policy for alcohol and other drugs. ATOD use is a health issue not a criminal issue.

‘No Danger’: Not all Richmond residents want safe injecting room moved

Article by Jewel Topsfield, The AGE Nov 19 2019

Richmond resident Karen Hovenga used to watch a procession of drug users come into her front yard every morning to use her garden tap for water to shoot up heroin.

But she said this stopped abruptly when the safe injecting room opened in June last year about 100 metres from her home in Smith Street.

Some residents and Richmond West Primary parents have come out in support of the safe injecting room after becoming frustrated with the portrayal of Richmond as a frightening hellhole.
Some residents and Richmond West Primary parents have come out in support of the safe injecting room after becoming frustrated with the portrayal of Richmond as a frightening hellhole.CREDIT:SIMON SCHLUTER

“There hasn’t been a syringe in my front yard since the centre opened,” said Ms Hovenga, who is the chair of the Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House.

Ms Hovenga is among a number of residents who have decided to speak out in support of the safe injecting room after becoming frustrated that Richmond was being depicted as a frightening hellhole following its opening.

“I often feel like I am living in a different neighbourhood to people who talk negatively, who talk about terrible things,” Ms Hovenga said.

Debate over whether the injecting room should be relocated or shut down has intensified after an outreach worker from the needle exchange program at North Richmond Community Health centre was charged with trafficking heroin.

Richmond Traders distributing this. It’s time the State government listened to locals and moved the injecting centre away from kids and closer to where the drugs actually purchased

View image on Twitter

A cartoon by Mark Knight in the Herald Sun described the injecting room as “the residential Chernobyl”.

On Saturday, a rally organised by some Victoria Street traders will be held in Richmond calling for “Dan [Andrews’] drug den” to be relocated.

David Horseman, the spokesman of a residents’ group campaigning to have the injecting room relocated, said he encouraged as many community members as possible to be there on the day.

He said Victoria Street traders had reported fewer people coming to the precinct since the injecting room opened because increased drug use on the street meant people were afraid for their safety.

But a group of residents who spoke to The Age say other voices are not being heard in the debate over the injecting room.

“The stories that as an old person you can’t go down Lennox Street without getting into deep trouble is not true,” said 86-year-old injecting room supporter Katrin Ogilvy, who has lived in York Street for 42 years.

Some parents at Richmond West Primary believe the school is being used as a political pawn by those who argue the safe injecting room should never have been located next to a school.

“I know other parents who are quite upset about the way the school is being used, particularly the arguments about the school not being safe,” said Mary Tomsic, a Highett Street resident whose twins go to the school.

Richmond West Primary School is next door to the safe injecting clinic.
Richmond West Primary School is next door to the safe injecting clinic. CREDIT:PAUL JEFFERS

Tom Muller, who has had children at Richmond West Primary for eight years, said the school was “thriving”.

A prestigious school offering a Chinese immersion bilingual program, Richmond West Primary’s enrolments have jumped from 210 in 2014 to 308 this year. Enrolments are up by 11 students from last year.

“We are not experiencing the safe injecting room having negative consequences,” Mr Muller said. “The school has co-existed with drugs forever, the staff are highly capable and highly aware and there is no danger to the kids.”

Mr Muller is frustrated by the “misrepresentation” that parents at the school hold one view opposing the safe injecting room.

The new, larger safe-injecting room in Richmond.
The new, larger safe-injecting room in Richmond.

“Stop bringing kids into the issue of the centre … the last thing we need is the centre being closed down and more people dying in the streets of Richmond,” he said.

Mr Horseman said the intention of the residents’ group calling for the injecting room’s relocation had never been to make the school a political football.

“It’s one of those things – it is impossible to deal with the underlying issue without talking about the school,” he said.

“Our desire to preserve everything the school has to offer is why we are fighting so hard to have the injecting room moved.”

But parent and Richmond resident Karl Zingre sees the location of the safe injecting room as an educational opportunity.

“I think these kids who go to Richmond West will never touch drugs because they did not live in Disney World, they know that is the reality,” Mr Zingre said. “I am pretty proud of having the school here.”

Mike Walsh moved to York Street in Richmond 17 years ago, when old pairs of runners slung over the electricity wires signalled it was a drug spot.

He believes the area is calmer since the injecting room opened.

“It feels like there is a belief we can transform the suburb into Montmorency or Camberwell,” Mr Walsh said. “It just is not real and it would lose all the great stuff that living in Richmond is.

See original article here.

Urgency Motion Passed Unanimously at the 2019 Victorian Labor Party Conference

Urgency Motion for 2019 Victorian Labor Conference

Harm reduction and community health approach for alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) policy


This conference congratulates the Victorian Labor Government for the record investment of $273 million in 2018/19 into ATOD services.  Addressing the prevalence of regional and inner city ice/methamphetamine use has been a strong focus of ALP health policy. We can see this in the $53.2 million Drug Rehabilitation Plan directed towards new rehabilitation beds across Victoria and $9.7 million towards additional facilities in Gippsland, Barwon and Hume regions in the 2017/18 budget. 

There are several key initiatives to address Victorian hotspots for overdose and ATOD related harm, notably the establishment and $7.2 million upgrade to the North Richmond Safe Injecting Room. At the 2018 election voters strongly endorsed our policy position, as our Liberal/National opposition took high profile policies to the election to go exactly the other way, doubling down on a failed ‘war on drugs’ approach.  Since its opening in July 2018 there has been a marked improvement in the amenity of the area, a reduction in first responder call outs and most importantly a significant reduction in drug user overdoses. At a recent community meeting a large number of local residents shared their experiences since its opening and all were unanimous in their support, and rejected the negative reports emanating from a small but vocal group who support the facility but want it relocated. 

Thanks to the leadership of the Andrews Government, medical cannabis is now legal in Victoria. The Victorian Government has also facilitated the creation of local jobs and facilities as part of is medical cannabis plan and continues to fund treatment for some of Victoria’s sickest children through its Compassionate Access Scheme. Naloxone training, ATOD pathways, Safescript and Crisis Hubs are all additional initiatives that signal the strength of our moves towards a health, harm reduction and community safety model of ATOD treatment. 

We need to continue this important work toward ATOD harm reduction. There is much more to do to ensure that Victoria moves away from having the very people the ALP represents, workers and their families, suffering the burden of a law and order focused ATOD policy – the human costs and the costs to the state are far too great. The State Labor government must be applauded for starting a journey toward evidence based ATOD policy and we need to continue this journey rather than continuing the failures of the past.

The social and economic cost of a law and order approach toward ATOD is immense and its costs will continue to grow. It takes away police, firefighters, paramedics and emergency health staff resources from other areas of acute need.  It adds immense and growing pressure to Victoria’s public health system from the number of alcohol and drug-related hospital admissions. The criminalisation of alcohol and drug use also contributes to a disturbing increase in rates of incarceration. Between 2008 and 2018 there was an increase of 81.5 per cent of prisoners in the Victorian prison system, of which 24.4 per cent of women and 13.6 per cent of male prisoners were charged for drug related offences. 

Drug use continues across all drug classes regardless of their legal status. Victoria needs policy settings that recognise that punishing ordinary Victorians for drug use further entrenches harm, and takes away resources from the most vulnerable especially in emergency health and justice sectors. Victorians deserve evidence based policy in ATOD that provides the best outcomes, giving a health focused response and avoiding criminalising ordinary Victorians. This will mean a more productive Victoria, more jobs in health, more revenue for government and a proper use of our police and emergency resources. The Andrews government must be strongly congratulated for continuing down this path and this conference joins with them in supporting harm reduction. To encourage these often controversial reforms, Labor for Drug Law Reform Victoria has been created to advocate internally in the Victorian Labor Party for a harm reduction approach toward ATOD use. 


  1. Conference calls on the government to continue existing harm reduction services such as the North Richmond Safe Injecting Room and continue changing our policy settings in ATOD away from a punitive model toward a health, harm reduction and community safety framework. 
  1. Conference notes that many other jurisdictions are changing their approach – The ACT Labor Government and the Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand Labour government have made similar moves toward a harm reduction framework in ATOD
  2. Conference supports the repeal of laws that criminalise public drunkenness and other policies that can increase the efficiency and accessibility of ATOD services to vulnerable Victorians, particularly those experiencing family violence.
  1. Conference calls for the Victorian Government look at innovative new strategies that have been trialled elsewhere in a bid to save Victorian lives and strive to reduce harm in the ATOD sector.
  2. As recommended in the report from the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee’s 2018 inquiry, Conference calls for the establishment of a Ministerial Council comprising all relevant Government Ministers with responsibility for ATOD policy including the portfolios of Health, Corrections, Mental health, Police, Education, Early Childhood Education, Road Safety and Multicultural Affairs.
  1. As recommended in the report from the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee’s 2018 inquiry , Conference calls for the establishment of an Advisory group sitting underneath the Ministerial Council which engages key stakeholders and experts, front line-services – such as police officers, paramedics and other health workers – and current users, recovering users and affected families. 

Moved: Gavin Ryan (Higgins FEA) 

Seconded: Paul Healy (HACSU)