Half a Million Steps
The Long Walk to Treatment, from Dubbo in central-west NSW to Sydney, delivered a powerful message to NSW Parliament urging effective drug treatment available to all.
This journey was filmed for a documentary called Half a Million Steps. It was launched in Sydney and Dubbo in June 2019 and is now being screened in local and target communities across Australia - and beyond!
You can register your interest in hosting a screening of the documentary here. It's not hard, and we can provide resources to help you.
About the campaign
We all want to live in a society where no-one dies from using drugs, and treatment is available to all who need it - when they need it.
Our Fair Treatment campaign aims to achieve this. The Uniting Church Synod and our partner organisations in the campaign (see Our partners tab below) want personal drug use treated as a health and social issue, not one for the criminal law.
We want to save lives and provide opportunities for new lives. Other countries have done this, with positive results.
The campaign was launched in Sydney on 12 October 2018, at an event at Sydney Town Hall featuring international guests and local experts.
Fair Treatment Campaign Launched at Town Hall- Insights Magazine (view photos, access to Livestream of the launch)
Offering Hope for those affected by Drug Policy- Insights Magazine
Uniting Advocacy team (supported by our Social Justice Forum) was asked to lead this campaign by the Uniting Church in Australia NSW and ACT Synod in 2016. A resolution brought to Synod by SJF approved 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).
The Launch of the campaign
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 lead to a jail sentence or a criminal record.
Arresting and jailing people for personal use scares them away from seeking treatment - and hurts low-income and vulnerable users most of all. Says former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer AO: "We need to stop arresting people and instead treat them. We've never put enough resources into treatment."
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.
Decriminalisation of personal use is also supported by leading legal professionals.
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 hosting a screening of Half a Million Steps.
- Support the campaign by writing or emailing your NSW MP or ACT Assembly MP to support reforms to support 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. And more at the Fair Treatment website.
8/11/19: NSW coroner calls for reform The Guardian
1/11/19: Recommendations for reform: Emma Maiden, Uniting Advocacy ABC News Radio
31/10/19: Ice inquiry lawyers back decriminalisation of personal drug use Sydney Morning Herald
25/9/19: Possession of small amounts of cannabis now legalised in the ACT Riot Act
26/6/19: Half a Million Steps on Religion and Ethics Report ABC Radio National
26/6/19: Uniting Church and Alan Jones back legal push to decriminalise ice use Sydney Morning Herald
12/6/19: "We need a new approach": Labor leadership hopeful pledges to hold a drug summit Sydney Morning Herald
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 partnership (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; people who use drugs, their families and friends; and faith-based groups - Anglican, Catholic and Uniting.
Fair Treatment partnership for drug law and policy reform - current partners (63)
- Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT
- 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
- 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 Lawyers for Human rights
- Australian Medical Students' Association
- Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation of NSW
- 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, Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW
- 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 and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW
- 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
- SMART Recovery Australia
- Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales
- Students for Sensible Drug Policy Australia
- Sydney Community Forum
- Ted Noffs Foundation
- Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW/ACT
- Uniting (including: Social Justice Forum; Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, Sydney)
- Wayside Chapel
- Women's Legal Service NSW