The Uniting Church Forum on drug law reform held on Monday 21st August reaffirmed our Synod’s stance on prioritizing harm reduction strategies and pushing for the decriminalization on possessing small amounts of illicit drugs.
A number of Uniting Church leaders and members including Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Church school students and staff all gathered at Parramatta Mission for this campaign forum.
The Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park, addressed the room drawing on the theology behind the Synod’s 2016 resolutions and spoke about how this issue is both challenging and confronting but as a church, we can make a change.
“This is all about caring for the humanity and dignity of other human beings. Healing and reconciliation is our message,” said Rev. Park.
Special guests included the Family and Friends for Drug Reform member, Marion McConnell and the Medical Director of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, Dr Marianne Jauncey, who both gave insights to why this reform is needed.
Marion McConnell who is also part of the Canberra Region Presbytery, reflected on the personal story of her son Daniel’s heroin overdose. She explained the heartbreaking impact current laws and processes had on her son and family. She also expressed her frustration on having to continue telling this story all these years later with the laws yet to change.
“Our son was between a rock and a hard place. The law dragged him away from the help he needed…if our policies had been health oriented, his could have been saved,” said Marion.
Marion went on to say that, the current approaches to drug use are only adding to the drug user’s pain and marginalization. Instead of dealing with people with drug problems through the criminal justice system, we should be treating them in the criminal justice system.
Dr Jauncey who heads the only medically supervised injecting centre in the southern hemisphere agreed.
The centre, which is located in the heart of Kings Cross, has supervised over 1 million injections and of the 6500 overdoses, there has been no deaths. The centre focuses on harm reduction and also offers a safe and non-judgmental environment for people to seek help.
Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW, Prof. Alison Ritter and Executive officer of the Yarra Drug Health Forum, Greg Denham, were also on the expert panel that commended the Synod’s compassionate and evidence based stance on this issue.
Towards the end of the forum, attendees were able to ask any questions, with the panel providing clarification around different aspects of the issue.
The panel agreed that discussions such as this one is important in addressing concerns from members about the Synod decision and effectively moving forward to create a safe and caring community.
As Christians, our response to drug use must be one based in the essential dignity and importance of human life,” said Rev. Park