ACT drug decriminalisation bill hailed as a breakthrough  

 Church leaders hail fact-based, health response to drug use


The Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT, and its service arm, Uniting, says proposed changes to the Australian Capital Territory’s drug laws are a significant step in the right direction and reflect a fact-based health response to drug use in the community.

The private members bill introduced into the ACT Parliament would mean people found with small amounts of drugs for personal use will no longer face arrest, fines or jail time.

Uniting established the Southern Hemisphere’s first medically supervised injecting centre (MSIC) at Kings Cross and is the lead partner in the Fair Treatment campaign advocating for a more compassionate response to drug use. It has also released a paper outlining best-practice approaches to decriminalisation.

 “These proposed laws reflect a desire to treat everyone with dignity and respect including people who use drugs and for them to have full access to medical treatment. Drug dependency should be treated with compassion and as a health issue,” the Moderator of the Uniting Church (NSW and ACT), the Rev. Simon Hansford, said.

“Our drug laws are based on hard and outdated ideas, not modern medical facts and evidence. People who have drug dependency are shamed and dehumanised, when they should be offered help to turn their lives around.

“We need to have a more honest and open conversation about alcohol and other drugs. Pretending we can stop all use of drugs is simply not realistic. And to believe our current law and order approach to drugs is working, is simply fanciful.”

Uniting has long campaigned for reforms to the current harsh and outdated drug laws and has spearheaded the Fair Treatment campaign which is supported by more than 60 legal, medical, community and church groups. See the Fair Treatment website.

The Head of Advocacy at Uniting, Emma Maiden, said Australia recorded 1,740 drug-induced deaths in 2018 – which was the equivalent to five deaths every day of the year.

She said there was strong support in the community for drug reform and that 24 countries across the world have adopted a form of decriminalisation.

“There is a misconception in the community that removing criminal sanctions has risks. This assumes criminal sanctions are an effect and appropriate deterrent, or that removing sanctions could send a signal that drugs are permissible,” Ms Maiden said.

“The experience of countries that have decriminalised possession does not support this.

“In fact, the more serious social and health problems associated with the use of opioids and methamphetamines mean a health and welfare response is even more appropriate than a criminal response.”

The Uniting Church will seek to raise support for the ACT Bill among its churches as well as advocate for a similar approach to drug reform to be adopted in NSW.


For more information, please contact:   

Ashley Donnelly 0400 509 068

Uniting media 0457 568 938




About the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT |

The Uniting Church is one of the largest Christian denomination in Australia. Our Congregations and members are diverse in age, location and culture. The Synod of NSW and the ACT supports more than 500 Congregations, 50,000 members, 14 Presbyteries and 9 schools and Parish Missions. We are connected by a single story, worshipping every week in more than 40 languages.

About Uniting | 

Uniting is responsible for the social justice, community services and chaplaincy work of the Uniting Church in NSW and the ACT, providing care and support for people through all ages and stages of life and with a focus on people experiencing disadvantage and vulnerability. Our purpose is to inspire people, enliven communities and confront injustice. We celebrate diversity and welcome everyone exactly as they are.