Engadine Uniting Church hosts Fair Treatment discussion with NSW government
The Uniting Church has a rich history of advocating for social justice. In this tradition, The Engadine Uniting Church hosted Lee Evans, the local State member for Heathcote, and Mark Speakman NSW Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, at an evening meeting of our and other congregations, and other interested community members, on 14 April 2021.
Such grass-roots events are pivotal if the church is going to achieve the change it wants in the world on critical issues such as creating a fairer more effective drug laws.
The Minister at Engadine Uniting Church, Rev. Michael Bleasdale reports on the event.
Engadine Uniting Church had been approached to host a discussion on the NSW Government’s law reform agenda, with a primary focus on drug law reform. The event also presented an opportunity for Uniting’s Deputy CEO, Doug Taylor, and the Head of Advocacy and Media, Emma Maiden, to promote the Fair Treatment campaign’s position on the decriminalisation of drugs, and to issue a challenge to the NSW Government to be bold and act on the recommendations of The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’.
Master of Ceremonies, Shane Slade, opened proceedings by citing Engadine Uniting Church’s previous engagement with the Fair Treatment campaign, when it screened the video “Half a Million Steps” back in 2019.
Following a brief introduction from Lee Evans, Attorney-General Mark Speakman talked about the fact that the NSW Cabinet is still to arrive at a definitive response to the Commission of Inquiry, but that decriminalisation was not being considered as an option at this point. Instead, the option of “depenalisation” was being seriously considered, and Mr Speakman provided details, including confiscation, issuing of fines, voluntary or mandatory health referral, escalating penalisation, and additional referral pathways, or combination of measures.
Following some questions, Doug Taylor from Uniting spoke with conviction about the strength of support from within the NSW and ACT Synod of the Uniting Church about drug law reform, and in particular our position of decriminalisation. He cited wins of the campaign helping to secure funding for a drug treatment centre in Dubbo and the long running success of the medically supervised injecting centre in Kings Cross. Uniting’s Emma Maiden shared powerful stories of people and families affected by drug use and some of the barriers of the current system to receiving assistance. Overseas, many creative solutions have been developed and implemented for us to draw on for the Australian context, we just need to drive to do so.
Mr Speakman and our guests from Fair Treatment then took part in a Q and A session, with a significant number of questions coming from the audience. Mr Speakman was familiar with best practice research from around the world but highlighted the political challenge, primarily within his own party and with certain sections of the media and the community, to combat strong opposition to drug law reform.
Fair Treatment has recently secured an important meeting with Mr Speakman, to discuss further the Government’s deliberations on the issue so far. Engadine Uniting is committed to doing what it can to support Fair Treatment into the future.
Rev. Michael Bleasdale