Premier’s position on drug policy reform must be evidence-based 

Uniting NSW.ACT has appealed to NSW Premier Chris Minns to not slam the door on evidence-based drug reform in this term of Government. NSW families who are experiencing drug dependency can’t afford to wait years for evidence-based and harm-reducing drug policy reform in NSW. 

Outgoing Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod in NSW and the ACT, Rev. Simon Hansford is calling on the Premier to announce the date and format for the drug summit he promised when he was elected.   

“We hoped for better. We waited nearly 3 years for the previous Government to respond to the Ice Inquiry. We believed that this new government would urgently deliver a Summit that heard from the experts and those with lived experience and lead to evidence-based policy decisions on drug reform.  

“Decriminalisation must be on the table at the Drug Summit. It was part of what the Ice Inquiry Commissioner Dan Howard recommended. 

“It’s too early to rule anything out and it will undermine the goodwill of those with lived experience of drug use, their families, those on the frontline in our emergency services, and the many academics, alcohol and drugs experts who have all been hoping the Drug Summit would be an opportunity to re-set the agenda, just like it was in 1999. 

“The Premier has told us we need to let the Drug Summit do its job. We support this and urge the Premier to re-commit to this position. 

”We can’t wait another three and half years for change. I have worked on this issue during my entire time as Moderator. It is profoundly disappointing to have seen so little progress over the past five years.  

“We value the inherent worth and dignity of all people including people who use drugs- yet our laws and systems that allow criminal consequences to flow from personal use of small quantities of drugs causes real damage and harm out there in the community.  

“In the ACT they have taken an evidence-based approach and shown a willingness to act in line with community values to support people and treat drug use as a health and social issue- that’s good government. 

The Queensland Government has also committed to drug checking and are exploring expansion of drug diversion for all drugs. NSW is so far behind. 

“A senior government frontbencher told Parliament just last year “that we cannot ‘arrest our way’ out of the problem, and that they would join with legal, health and social experts in emphasising that this is, above all else, a health issue that demands a health-focused response.  

“That is as true this year, as it was last – so what has changed?” Rev Hansford said. 

Uniting’s Fair Treatment Campaign calls for fair, sensible, compassionate, and health-based responses to drug and alcohol use and dependency. We believe our unjust drug laws cause harm to people in our communities and further perpetuate shame and stigma, which act as barriers for people seeking treatment. 

2023 marks 8 years since the Uniting Church Synod of NSW/ACT resolved for Uniting to lead a campaign for two things: the decriminalisation of all drugs in small quantities and increased investment in drug and alcohol treatment and support services.  

We firmly believe that our laws should be informed by best practice and evidence and treatment and support should be available to all those who seek it. We also support a more honest and open conversation about alcohol and other drugs and believe that we must shift the narrative to combat stigma.  

Over the last 6 years we have built a partnership of over 70 organisations who support our aims. These organisations represent the health, legal, AOD, faith and community sectors and support Fair Treatment in its two main campaign aims.   

Since Uniting’s ‘Fair Treatment’ campaign launch in at Sydney Town Hall in 2018 the campaign has: 

  • Advocated to Government and met with one third of the Parliament in the lead up to the response to the Ice Inquiry. 
  • In 2021 Fair Treatment conducted polling in key NSW metropolitan and regional electorates which showed majority support for non-criminal responses to drug use and possession. The results indicated an overwhelming 78% of people in NSW are against jail and other criminal sanctions for people found in possession of small quantities of any drug. And 65% of those polled would rather those found in possession of drugs were cautioned or referred for treatment rather than fined. 
  • In 2022 Fair Treatment again conducted polling, this time in ACT with an overwhelming majority of respondents in favour of health-based responses to drug use and nearly 80% of respondents were in favour of non-criminal responses, these encompassed no action taken, warnings, fines and referrals to education or treatment. Additionally, 70% of respondents supported non-pecuniary responses, or responses that were not fines or criminal consequences. 
  • Supported the Dubbo community to win funding for a local drug rehabilitation service. 
  • Campaigned to win decriminalisation in the ACT. 
  • The Fair Treatment Reference Group of people with lived and living experience helps shape and guide the campaign. 

Media Contact: Andrew Bradley p: 0481 064 379  e: