Australia21 Directors argue for drug reforms
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18 February 2016

Media Release
Australia21 Directors argue for drug reforms to save party goers’ lives
Australia21 Directors, Alex Wodak and Mick Palmer, appeared in ABC Four Corners program “Dying to Dance”, screened on Monday 15 February (currently available on ABC Iview).  They featured with Nicholas Cowdery, former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions and Dr David Caldicott, Emergency Consultant at Calvary Hospital in Canberra. All mounted a powerful case for comprehensive pill testing at public events, instead of policing the use of ecstasy and other party drugs by young people in ways that criminalise and put recreational users’ lives at risk.  
Confirming that effective pill testing could begin this year, Alex said “that's information that all people would want to have – and incidentally, all parents would want their sons or daughters to have or their brothers and sisters to have.”  Asked whether the current policy of using sniffer dogs to identify and charge pill users, Mick said “there's a lot of things wrong with our illicit drug policy at the moment. I think they desperately need changing for the benefit of the very young Australians that are trying to be helped at the moment by current policies, but I think in fact are being harmed.”
While supporting informed debate about the need for drug policy reforms, the Board of Australia21 are concerned that the Four Corners program over-emphasised the extent of extreme party drug taking behaviour. This risked glamourising such behaviour.  More importantly, it undermined the message – based on clear evidence – of widespread, more moderate use of these drugs that, in the absence of systematic pill testing, is putting all users at risk. The Board were also disappointed by the response of the NSW Police Minister to the evidence of the failings of the current policing policies, seemingly partly based on a misinterpretation of overseas experience.
The Chair of Australia21’s Board, Paul Barratt emphasised the growing recognition internationally that an overwhelming focus of policy and resources on policing illegal drugs is failing to address the major social, health and economic impacts of drug use of all types.  â€œA21 will continue to cooperate with key interested parties to develop evidence based responses to minimising the harm from drugs, whether legal or illicit” he said. “What is urgently needed in
Australia is political leadership to rebalance our policies towards harm minimisation.”

Australia21 reports on drug reform can be found here:
For more information about Australia21 go to
Paul Barratt
Chair, Australia21
M: 0411 276 996

Anne Quinn
Executive Officer, Australia21
P: 02 6288 0823 (Tues and Thurs)

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