500,000 steps closer to fair treatment
The Long Walk to Treatment campaign reached NSW Parliament House today delivering a message to politicians that the war on drugs is lost and we need drug law reform now.
A group of walkers began the campaign trek in Dubbo on October 19. Over 100 walkers participated in the relay-style walk, carrying the letter 500,000 steps over 15 days.
The 500,000 steps represents the travel distance it would be for a person in regional New South Wales to reach drug treatment.
On the steps of St Stephens Uniting Church, the Director of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) Dr Marianne Jauncey and Uniting Church member, Marion McConnell were just some of the speakers on the day to renew calls to treat drug policy as a health issue and not a criminal one.
Marion McConnell lost her son to a drug overdose and for the last 26 years she has been a drug law reform advocate. Her voice was particularly poignant in the Uniting Church NSW and ACT Synod decision to pass the 2016 resolution that prioritizes harm reduction treatment and decriminalizes the possession and use of small amounts of illicit drugs.
The crowd also heard from former client of MSIC, Liz Gal. Liz shared that she is now nine years in recovery as she explained that she is proof that treatment works.
Former clients of MSIC — Josh and Taz — delivered the letter to parliament on its last leg up Macquarie Street to the Moderator of the Synod of NSW and ACT Rev. Simon Hansford.
Rev. Hansford, read the letter he signed on behalf of the Uniting Church and Uniting, before handing it to the politicians Shayne Mallard MLC, Jo Haylen MCA, Kate Faehrmann MLA and Alex Greenwich MLC (pictured above from left to right).
“It is a long way from Dubbo to Sydney. We should know as a partnership of 57 legal, health, community and church groups and our supporters we have just walked every step of the 400km journey.
“We undertook the Long Walk to Treatment to highlight the plight of women with children in many rural areas of NSW who do not have easy access to alcohol and drug treatment services.
“Every year more than 200,000 Australians are unable to access Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) treatment. Tragically, drug-induced deaths in Australia have now hit their highest in 20 years.
“Fair Treatment is a campaign seeking to create a world where no one dies or is harmed from drug use and people are not penalised for being unwell. It aims to reform drug policy based on facts and not fear, treating drug dependency as a health issue rather than a criminal one.”
The letter ended with a call to government to work collaboratively on this crippling social problem, “We want to work constructively and positively with all political leaders in NSW to ensure we can find a better a solution to drugs and addiction in this state. Together we can create a system that provides fair treatment to all those in need.”
Alex Greenwich, member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of Sydney since the 2012 responded with a renewed commitment to making the issue a priority.
“You do have friends across the road and we are working hard to ensure that those numbers increase in this parliament and the next parliament so that we can see fair treatment for everybody across New South Wales and strong shift to an evidence based, harm minimisation approach,” said Mr Greenwich.
Over 6,000 people have signed a petition supporting the Fair Treatment campaign. You can also draw the line on drug policy and support Long Walk to Treatment here.
The Uniting Church NSW and ACT Synod and Uniting, have spearheaded this campaign which is backed by more than 60 organisations, including the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association, and the NSW branch of the Health Services Union.