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21 years of harm minimisation policy.

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Laurie Ferguson Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs Shadow Minister for Population Health and Health Regulation

Friday ,31st of March 2006

21 years of Harm Minimisation Policy

The 2nd of April will mark the 21st anniversary of the harm minimisation strategy to deal with drug abuse. Mr Laurie Ferguson, Shadow Minister for Population Health said “during this period, successive governments have adopted this model as a key weapon in combating the destructive impact of drugs on the community. Harm minimisation has been the guiding principle behind the National Drug Strategy since 1985”.

According to the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA):

A balance of supply, demand and harm reduction measures is the best way t o reduce the impact of alcohol and other drug use on individuals, families and communities.

Mr Ferguson said “the great work that has been accomplished to date is being quickly undone by the Howard Government’s reckless attitude to funding essential institutions such as the ADCA. Last year ADCA went unfunded for five days whilst the Department of Health quibbled with its funding. This disgraceful state of affairs can not continue and the Government must commit to proper long term funding of this vital institution”.

“Lack of resources and funding is severely wounding this sector. Alcohol and other drugs treatment agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain qualified staff. There are also escalating demands on agencies including: increased complexity of clients presenting for treatment; a growing (and appropriate) emphasis on evidence-based practice; and a move towards accreditation as a requirement for government funding.

Mr Ferguson said “the ongoing neglect of the sector has meant that these demands are not matched by adequate funding to support the development and implementation of policies, systems and structures to underpin a qualified alcohol and drug workforce”.

“There is no comprehensive workforce planning for the future sustainability of the alcohol and other drugs workforce in Australia. It is critical that we plan for the future. The Howard Government is clueless as where the sector will be in ten years”.

Mr Ferguson said the “Howard government’s emphasis on policing and enforcement is not working. Not enough resources are being directed at harm minimisation strategies such as treatment and prevention”.

Mr Ferguson said “in reworking our alcohol and other drugs policy, the ALP will give the adequate funding and resourcing of this vital sector a very high priority”.

In marking the 21st anniversary of the Harm Minimisation policy, Mr Ferguson welcomed ADCA’s ‘Harm Minimisation Supporter’s List’ initiative. “The Supporters List is intended to highlight the many successes achieved as a result of harm minimisation approaches, as well as the skill and dedication of the thousands of people that are working in the sector in areas such as treatment, education, law enforcement, prevention and research”.


Contact: Laurie Ferguson 0418 601716