Health and social services national summit: Joint Statement on harms from current Australian drug laws


Australia21 Drugs IV RoundtableThis Joint Statement is issued by health and social service providers and policy leaders who met for a national summit on drug harm reduction at Victoria’s Parliament House on Wednesday 21 March 2018, convened by Australia21: think tank for the public good.



Joint Statement

Monday 26 March 2018


We the undersigned call on Australia’s federal, state and territory governments to treat drug use primarily as a health and social issue and to remove criminal sanctions for personal use and possession.

We make this call because our own professional experience supports overwhelming evidence that current Australian drug laws, although well-intentioned, create and/or worsen a wide range of health and social harms. There are complex two-way interactions between the punitive approach to drug use and problems including poverty, social disadvantage, unemployment, homelessness, family violence, child protection interventions, mental illness and suicide. Poor drug policy also leads to further crime. The human and financial costs of the negative impacts of the current drug laws are borne not just by drug users, but by their families and communities, and the nation as a whole. 

We have agreed to work together to improve public awareness of (a) the negative impacts of the current drug laws and the way they are interpreted and implemented, and (b) the real and tangible health and social benefits of drug law reform.

Laurence Alvis
EO, Uniting ReGen (AOD treatment and education service of Uniting Vic Tas)

Kat Armstrong
Lawyer, former drug user
Co-founder, Women In Prison Advocacy Network (now Women’s Justice Network)

Paul Barratt AO
Chair, Australia21: think tank for the public good
Former Secretary, Departments of Primary Industries and Energy & Defence

Liz Barrett
Campaigns and Policy Advisor, Uniting Centre for Research, Innovation & Advocacy
Social justice advocate

Rebecca Bunn
Director and Community Engagement Manager, Australia21
Managing Director, Imprisonment Observatory, Monash University

Bill Bush
President, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform
Former head of the Treaties Section in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Kasy Chambers
CEO, Anglicare Australia

Kyle Cox
Campaign and Advocacy Advisor, Uniting
Former senior staff member, US Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health

Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas AO
Founding Director, Australia21
Foundation Director, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, ANU

Professor Suzanne Fraser
Program Leader, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

Professor Margaret Hamilton AO
Former: Foundation Director, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre; executive member of the Australian National Council on Drugs; chair of the Capital City Lord Mayors Drug Advisory Committee

Susan Helyar
Director, ACT Council of Social Services

Caitlin Hughes  
Senior Research Fellow, Drug Policy Modelling Program, University of NSW

Marianne Jauncey
Medical Director, Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of NSW
Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney

Marion McConnell OAM
Founding member, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

Stephen McNally
Deputy CEO, Penington Institute

Emeritus Professor Jake Najman
Director, Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Center, University of Queensland

Carol Nikakis
CEO, Victorian Association for the Care & Resettlement of Offenders

Margaret Nimac
Representing the CEO of Uniting, Peter Worland

Matt Noffs
CEO, Noffs Foundation (Australia’s largest drug and alcohol treatment service provider for young people under 25)
Co-founder of Street Universities

Professor Peter Norden AO
Fellow, Australian & New Zealand Society of Criminology.
Hon. Fellow, Humanities & Social Sciences, Deakin University

Jon O’Brien
Head of Social Justice Forum, Uniting (the Uniting Church’s community service and advocacy arm in NSW/ACT)

Connor Palmer
Representing YoungA21, Australia21’s youth advisory committee
Pharmacy intern

Mick Palmer AO APM
Emeritus Director, Australia21
Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner
Former Commissioner of the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Service

Fiona Patten
Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly
Founder and leader of REASON, a movement of radical common sense

Emeritus Professor David Penington AC
Former Dean of Medicine and Vice Chancellor, University of Melbourne
Former chair of the Victorian Premier’s Drug Advisory Council, Capital City Lord Mayors Drug Advisory Committee & Victorian Drug Expert Committee

Deborah Rice
Director and Communications Manager, Australia21
Former ABC News Senior Reporter and Presenter

Professor Robin Room
Professor, Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Latrobe University

Associate Professor Kate Seear
Associate Professor in Law, Monash University
Academic Director of the Springvale Monash Legal Service

Rosie Shea
Australia21 Volunteer
Member of Unharm

Lyn Stephens
Director, Australia21
Organisational development consultant

Stephanie Taplin
Associate Director of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University

Associate Professor kylie valentine
Deputy Director, Social Policy Research Centre, University of NSW

Alex Wodak AM
Director, Australia21
President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation
Emeritus Consultant, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney



Read more about this issue…

Health and social services summit calls for #HelpNotHarm drug law reform



Here are some ways you can help Australia21 promote fair, sustainable and inclusive public policy through evidence-based research:


Share our Latest News and social posts

social media logos
Sharing our research with your friends, family and colleagues or even mentioning what we do in a conversation helps generate public awareness, stimulate debate and encourage evidence-based decisions on important issues. It also helps us grow our support base. To share our work on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other platforms — or to email it — simply click on one of the grey icons at the top of our post, or the coloured ones in the sidebar to the right. Easy!


Donate to Australia21

  • Make a one-off or regular donation by clicking on the yellow DONATE button at the top of this page or go to our GiveNow page here: Make a donation.
  • Give the gift of a donation to that difficult-to-buy-for friend or family member.
  • Request a gift in memory, in lieu of flowers.
  • Make a bequest in your will.

For more information about arranging gifts and bequests, please contact Anne Quinn at or on 02 62880823.


Partner with us

  • Become a Corporate Partner.
  • Sponsor our work.
  • Engage us to work on a mutually agreed topic.

For more information go to Partners.


Volunteer with us

Australia21: volunteers at the launch of Smarter About Drugs: A conversation pack with David StanleyOur volunteers live all around Australia and undertake a variety of tasks on our behalf. Some tasks are related to particular projects (such as providing research assistance) and some are related to administrative support (from helping us prepare our newsletter through to advising us on our organisational strategy). All contributions are highly valued.

For more information go to How to volunteer.


Leave a comment

Please login to post your comments. Click here to sign up

Stay in Touch