Fair Treatment Campaign


The Long Walk to Treatment, from Dubbo in central-west NSW to Sydney, delivered a message to NSW Parliament urging better drug treatment availability. This is being made into a documentary called Half a Million Steps. Check out the trailer here.

You can register your interest in attending or hosting a screening of the documentary here

Our Fair Treatment campaign website is here.

The campaign was launched in Sydney on 12 October 2018, at an event at Sydney Town Hall featuring international guests and local experts. 

About the campaign

Uniting Social Justice Forum is taking part in Fair Treatment, a campaign for reforms to reduce the harm from illicit drugs. We and our partner organisations in the Fair Treatment campaign (see Our partners tab below) want personal drug use treated as a health and social issue, not one for the criminal law.

This follows a resolution by the Uniting Church in Australia NSW and ACT Synod in 2016 (brought to Synod by SJF), approving its congregations and services to advocate for:

  • increased investment in harm reduction and demand reduction strategies; and
  • further measures to decriminalise individual possession and use of small amounts of illegal drugs (notto decriminalise the illegal supply of drugs). 

See highlights of our June 2018 Sydney event on Portugal's reforms and why they're a good model for Australia.  And the speeches at our October 2018 launch in Sydney at the Fair Treatment website.


The SJF Team visits the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross, Sydney

MC Jan Fran from SBS The Feed moderated the Fair Treatment launch panel with Sir Richard Branson, Dr Marianne Jauncey and Dr Khalid Tinasti

Executive Director of Uniting, Tracey Burton, Sir Richard Branson, Moderator of the UCA Synod of NSW and ACT Rev. Simon Hansford and General Secretary of the UCA Synod of NSW and ACT, Rev. Jane Fry

Tracey Burton thanks the panelists and gathered guests at the launch

A wide range of respected non-government/not-for-profit organisations are already engaged as partners in the Fair Treatment campaign for drug law and policy reform (full list under Our partners below).

Uniting is coordinating this evidence-based campaign on behalf of the wider church and our partners - informing and engaging congregations in NSW and the ACT and the wider community.

The campaign draws on expertise of people working in the field - including medical staff at Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, Sydney.

Decriminalisation refers to removal of criminal sanctions for personal possession and use of small quantities of currently illicit drugs. This means personal use would not attract a jail sentence nor incur a criminal record. Current imposition of jail and criminal records for personal use is counterproductive - it deters seeking treatment, and hurts low-income and vulnerable users most of all.

Our campaign does not seek full legalisation of personal use of currently illegal drugs, nor the decriminalisation of their sale or supply. Some of our individual partner organisations may seek these outcomes, but the partnership as a whole seeks only our unanimously agreed aims. 

The evidence: Decriminalisation of personal drug use has been adopted to some extent in at least 26 countries. Worldwide evidence shows it doesn't lead to significantly greater drug use. It also doesn't increase drug-related crime. But it does reduce drug-related deaths, improve potential for engaging with treatment and rehabilitation, lessen negative impact on families and friends, reduce the burden on the criminal justice system, improve personal employment prospects and opportunities to turn lives around, and improve business and community amenity. For example, see the evidence from Portugal.

A majority of Australians believe people who use small quantities of illicit drugs should not be dealt with through the criminal justice system but by cautions, referrals to treatment, and if necessary minor penalties not involving jail terms or criminal records.

More at the Fair Treatment website.  

Research worldwide shows demand reduction strategies (including education and information), and harm reduction strategies (including treatment and safe use facilities) have helped engage drug users with support and effective treatment, improving health outcomes including chances of saving lives.

This campaign proposes reallocation of enforcement resources away from pursuing and convicting personal users and towards pursuing and convicting drug producers and suppliers.

More at the Fair Treatment website.

  • REGISTER your interest in attending or hosting a screening of Half a Million Steps.
  • Supporters are encouraged to write or email to their NSW MP or ACT Assembly MP to support legislative and policy reforms to increase support for demand and harm reduction strategies, and to treat personal drug use as a health and social, not criminal, matter.
  • One suggested mechanism for reform could be to convene a multipartisan drug policy summit which could make recommendations and present draft legislation to Parliament towards achieving these aims.
  • Other ways to take action.   More at the Fair Treatment website.

Recent reports

2/1/19: Show some courage on pill testing and save young lives  Sydney Morning Herald

9/12/18: Testing drugs at festivals "a lifesaver", study finds  The Guardian

20/10/18: Dubbo the launchpad for 15-day Long Walk to Treatment   Dubbo Daily Liberal

12/10/18: Drug decriminalisation 'blindingly obvious': Branson launches campaign  ABC News 

11/8/18: Norway wants to decriminalise drugs  VICE News

8/6/18:  Global expert from Portugal calls for drug decriminalisation in Australia  Sydney Morning Herald

10/1/18: Attitudes to drug use must change: report  Global Commission on Drug Policy media release

9/12/17: Drug expert says Sydney must lift its harm reduction game  South Sydney Herald

31/10/17: Safe drug injecting room trial in Melbourne's inner north  Herald Sun

6/10/17: MPs urge drug decriminalisation after trip to Portugal  The Australian

28/5/17: AMA calls for 'mature conversation' over decriminalising drugs to reduce harms ABC News

25/3/17: Help users, don't punish them says top cop as war on drugs fails Daily Telegraph

20/3/17: Time to decriminalise drugs: report AAP / SBS

27/2/17: Experts say ice epidemic not a criminal issue AAP / Sky News

11/2/17: Why Australia needs more supervised injecting centres Sydney Morning Herald 

19/1/17: Drug prohibition is killing young Australians Huffington Post Australia

8/1/17: Police against drug prohibition: an interview with LEAP's Greg Denham Sydney Criminal Lawyers blog 

7/7/16: Uniting begins campaign to rethink illegal drug policies  South Sydney Herald

21/4/16: Uniting calls for a rethink on drugs  Uniting media release

Below is a current list of partners in our campaign for better resourcing of evidence-based drug treatment policies, and for ending the imposition of criminal penalties for personal possession and use of drugs. This list will be revised as new partners are added.

Represented in the Alliance (from NSW, ACT, Australia and overseas) are specialist researchers, drug treatment and referral professionals, doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, lawyers, law enforcement professionals, students; health, community, charity, civil liberties, human rights and social equity organisations; drug users and their families and friends; and faith-based groups - Anglican, Catholic and Uniting.  

Fair Treatment alliance for drug law and policy reform - current partners (57)

  • Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT
  • ACON
  • Alcohol and Drug Foundation
  • Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT
  • Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs
  • Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine
  • Australia21
  • Australian Association of Social Workers
  • Australian Community Workers Association
  • Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation
  • Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations
  • Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League
  • Australian Medical Students' Association
  • Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy
  • Catholics in Coalition for Justice and Peace
  • Centre for Research Excellence into Injecting Drug Use, Burnet Institute
  • Centre for Social Research in Health, University of New South Wales
  • Community Legal Centres NSW
  • Community Restorative Centre
  • Discipline of Addiction Medicine, University of Sydney
  • Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australasia
  • Drug Policy Australia
  • Drug Policy Modelling Program, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales
  • Exodus Foundation
  • Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform
  • Family Drug Support Australia
  • Harm Reduction Australia
  • Health Services Union NSW
  • Hepatitis ACT
  • Hepatitis Australia
  • Hepatitis NSW
  • Human Rights Watch Australia
  • International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies
  • Justice Action
  • Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales
  • Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (Australia)
  • Law Society of New South Wales
  • National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, Flinders University
  • National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
  • National LGBTI Health Alliance
  • Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies
  • New Zealand Drug Foundation - Te Tuapapa Tarukino o Aotearoa
  • NSW Bar Association
  • NSW Council for Civil Liberties
  • NSW Council of Social Service
  • NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association
  • NSW Users and AIDS Association
  • Public Affairs Commission, Anglican Church of Australia
  • Public Health Association of Australia
  • Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy Australia
  • Ted Noffs Foundation
  • Unharm
  • Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW/ACT
  • Uniting (including: Social Justice Forum; Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, Sydney)
  • Wayside Chapel
  • WHOS
  • Women's Legal Service NSW