HRA Newsletter
October 2016
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In an age where information is so abundant and so easily shared it can become difficult to know where to focus. The Board of Harm Reduction Australia understands this situation well and has developed its own list of policy and program priorities that we want to see achieved for Australia. It includes programs for which the evidence is so overwhelming that it becomes impossible to deny, such as heroin prescription programs. It also includes programs where evidence is slowly but surely building, such as pill testing. We will be releasing our priorities in time and after consultation with our members.

On another issue of importance. Australia has one of the world’s lowest rates of HIV among people who inject drugs and the evidence is clear that this success is a result of the early introduction of needle and syringe programs, as well as the enduring involvement of peer-based organisations. There is a saying in politics that a bad idea is an orphan and a good idea has a thousand parents…there is some truth to this when one looks back at the potential HIV epidemic that faced Australia in the 1980’s. Despite the claims of some, the success in Australia was achieved because of a combination of boldness, courage and determination from a number of people. However, it’s also clear that what was achieved could not be repeated without the leadership and involvement of drug users themselves. In the end, there are those that understand the concept of ‘nothing about us without us’ and there are those that do not.

Finally, on the political front, congratulations to the NSW MPs who organised the recent summit in the NSW Parliament and our heartfelt condolences to the many families in the Philippines that are enduring such unspeakable acts of violence as a result of their President’s ill-informed war on drugs.

Gino Vumbaca
Harm Reduction Australia

The Philippines

HRA has expressed its strong concern over the callous extra-judicial killing spree that has to date left thousands dead. We have asked the Australian Government to make the strongest representations possible to the Philippines President and Government.

See our letter here and please feel free to distribute this link to key people such as your local MP.

IDPC letter to UN re Philippines

Over 300 NGOs call on the United Nations to take immediate action on the hundreds of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines.

Read the letter here.

Statement by the UNODC Executive Director on the situation in the Philippines

Vienna, 3 August 2016 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) remains greatly concerned by the reports of extrajudicial killing of suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines. I join the United Nations Secretary-General in condemning the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Read the letter here.

INCB expresses concern about reports of violence against persons suspected of drug-related crime and drug use in the Philippines

VIENNA, 3 August – The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has become aware of reports by various media outlets of acts of violence and murder in the Philippines committed against individuals suspected of involvement in the illicit drug trade or of drug use, and which may have been encouraged or condoned by members of the Government.

Read the letter here.

Global Week of Action to raise awareness of the current situation in the Philippines

INPUD and ANPUD are coordinating a Global Week of Action to raise awareness of the current situation in the Philippines. The Global Week of Action will be from the 10th to 16th October, and will include peaceful demonstrations at Philippine Embassies around the world. More details, including guidelines and template letters, can be found on the INPUD website: 

NUAA is also organizing an action on Monday 10 October to protest the state-sanctioned murder of people who use drugs in the Philippines as part of the Global week of action.

Harm Reduction International 10by20 Campaign

Harm reduction is an evidence-based and cost-effective approach to drug policy and practice that is about keeping people who use drugs, their families and communities safe and healthy. Harm reduction is about saving lives and it works! Yet many countries still do not provide harm reduction services and global funding for it amounts to just $160 million – only 7 per cent of what is needed.  By contrast, each year governments spend over $100 billion waging an ineffective war on drugs.

Click here for more information on the HRI Campaign.

Motion by the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Richard Di Natale

Harm Reduction Australia congratulates the Australian Greens for their motion which was carried by the ‘voices’ in the Senate on International Overdose Day on 31 August 2016.

Here is an extract from the Drug Policy Senate Motion:

Calls on the Government to address the rising rates of harm associated with drug use by implementing and appropriately resourcing evidence-based harm reduction policies, including:

(i) greater access to needle and syringe programs across the country with an urgent roll-out of trials inside prisons,

(ii) expanded access to medically supervised injecting facilities across Australia,

(iii) promoting awareness of the life-saving opioid reversal drug Naloxone, and highlighting its availability over the counter in pharmacies, and

(iv) working with state and territory governments to cease the use of drug sniffer dogs at festivals and urgently introduce trials of pill testing for the upcoming festivals season.

IDPC - Decriminalisation in Asia

The report A public health approach to drug use in Asia: Principles and practices for decriminalisation in Asia, produced by the International Drug Policy Consortium, Asian Network of People who use Drugs and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, is now available in English and two other languages: Chinese and Bahasa Indonesia.

You can download them all at this link.

Latest Policy Developments and News


If we want to reduce crime, we need to break the rules: NSW will be funding a further 3,000 prison beds in its budget at a cost of over $3.8 billion. Rather than spending this extraordinary amount of money on more prisons, surely it is time to pause and ask -- is this what is most effective?

It’s important to understand pill testing before we condemn it:  The NSW Government has no reason to be fearful of a forum to debate and discuss policies that affect so many of its citizens’ lives. It is an opportunity to review the evidence, understand the impact of current laws and policies and develop effective approaches that make communities, families and people healthier and safer.

The rejection of drug testing is a hard pill to swallow: If it is one of your children or family attending a festival and considering taking a pill, which would you prefer: an engagement with health professionals, or reliance on an over-the-counter or internet-ordered test kit?

What the Philippines' War on Drugs can teach Australia

More HR news is available on our website at IN THE NEWS 

Advocate Update

Nick Cowdery

Nicholas Cowdery AM QC has been a criminal law barrister and Director of Public Prosecutions for NSW. He is now an Adjunct Professor and Visiting Professorial Fellow, teaching at several universities in NSW and is the chair of the White Ribbon Australia board.

Click here to read an article on Nick and White Ribbon's vision and purpose.

A number of HRA Advocates also participated in the NSW Cross-Party Harm Minimisation Roundtable organised by Liberal, Labor, Greens & Independent MPs  - see them in action at

We can only hope that all NSW MPs take on board the expert analysis and advice they provided.

Augusto Nogueira celebrated the opening of Asia's newest community based voluntary residential treatment centre in Macau. The opening ceremony at the new ARTM facility was attended by senior Macau officials, law enforcement, foreign dignitaries and the UNODC. The centre caters for men and women and is a part of the organisation's suite of services which includes needle and syringe programs, outreach and youth services.

25th International Harm Reduction Conference

The 25th International Harm Reduction Conference will be in Montreal, Canada, from the 14th – 17th May 2017.

More details are available here.

ASHM Conferences


The Australasian Sexual Health Conference. 14 – 16 November 2016, Adelaide, Australia

It’s time to turn everything you know about Sexual Health on its head and ‘Rethink Sexual Health’ at the 2016 Australasian Sexual Health Conference, 14 – 16 November 2016, at the Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, South Australia.

The Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference 2016. 16 – 18 November 2016, Adelaide, Australia

The Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference (26th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine) is the premier HIV Conference in Australia and the Asia and Pacific region. Delegates to the conference come from a range of professional backgrounds including basic science, clinical medicine, community programs, education, epidemiology, indigenous health, international and regional issues, nursing and allied health, policy, primary care, public health and prevention, and social research. 

Join Harm Reduction Australia and help achieve more humane, effective and balanced drug policies in Australia and beyond.  Join now
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