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Draw the line on drugs


Shantell Irwin is a country mother who’s desperate to beat addiction. But like 200,000 other Australians, she’s been unable to access the drug and alcohol services she needs.

That’s why she was the first person to take a step on a 400-kilometre Long Walk to Treatment calling for law reform that will help reduce drug harms, especially in regional Australia.

The walk is part of the Fair Treatment campaign led by Uniting, which runs the southern hemisphere’s first Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Over 17 years the MSIC has reversed more than 8,000 overdoses without a single death. Yet across Australia, drug-induced deaths are at their highest in 20 years.

Fair Treatment is supported by Sir Richard Branson and a large group of not-for-profit partners, including Australia21. Like a rapidly growing number of Australians, we want problematic drug use dealt with as a health and social issue instead of public money being wasted on the ineffective and damaging “tough on crime” approach of punishing people who often need help.

Along the Long Walk to Treatment, Shantell and other supporters are collecting petition signatures which are being displayed on Google Maps every day, digitally drawing the line they’re travelling from Dubbo to Sydney to highlight the need for change. You can watch Shantell’s confronting story by clicking here.

Australia21's ground breaking report about the health and social harms created or worsened by our current drug policies will be released to mark the end of the Long Walk to Treatment on 2 November 2018. 

We All Pay The Price explores the 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, stigma, discrimination and suicide. It calls for the removal of criminal sanctions for consumption and a boost in funding for treatment, to reduce the health, social and economic costs of drug harms ultimately borne by all Australians.

The report is the product of an unprecedented Roundtable collaboration between experts in drug law, drug treatment and community welfare. The diverse participants included representatives from the Kings Cross MSIC, Uniting ReGen, Anglicare Australia, the Noffs Foundation, the ACT Council of Social Services, the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, the Penington Institute, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, the ACU Institute of Child Protection Studies, the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and high profile addiction specialists, sociologists and criminologists, as well as participants with lived experience of drug use and imprisonment.

The legitimacy of these voices cannot be ignored.

Australia21 is also supporting the Take Control campaign for safer, saner drug laws. Take Control is a community-driven initiative backed by the Ted Noffs Foundation, grounded in the reality that telling kids to “just say no” rarely works.

Take Control has a 5 point common sense plan:

CLICK HERE to read more about these initiatives


Australia21 is an independent, not-for-profit think tank. We promote fair, sustainable and inclusive public policy through evidence-based research.

We bring together experts, decision makers, business people, academics and ordinary Australians to tackle real-world ‘wicked’ problems — complicated social,  health, economic, environmental and national security dilemmas that defy simple solutions. We focus on the issues, not the politics.
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