99ers Parliamentary Event

The 1999 Drug Summit- almost 25 years on, its impacts on New South Wales are still felt, and when we look towards a future Drug Summit, where better to start?

On Wednesday the 29th of November, the Fair Treatment Campaign held an event in Parliament, bringing together key voices in government and drug law reform to reflect and build towards the future. In attendance were countless politicians from all major parties, members of the drug and alcohol sector, and people with lived experience of drug dependency.

The hope is that the promised summit will replicate the format and success of former premier Bob Carr’s five-day parliamentary drug summit of 1999, which led to Australia’s first injecting room in Sydney’s King’s Cross – Uniting’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC), among other reforms.

Evidence, Outcomes, Open Minds and Multipartisanship were the key phrases heard throughout the event, and this reflects our aspirations for the Drug Summit. It was a reminder that people with lived experience of drug use and dependency and their families have already waited a very long time for real reform and now patiently wait once again for Premier Minns to set a date.

What Happened?

The event begun with a beautiful acknowledgement of Country from Michael West from Sydney Metro Aboriginal Land Council, and an introduction by Executive Director of Uniting NSW.ACT, Tracey Burton, who reflected on Uniting’s unique position running the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, and the Uniting Church support for drug decriminalisation and increases to treatment funding.

The hope is that the promised summit will replicate the format and success of former premier Bob Carr’s five-day parliamentary drug summit of 1999, which led to Australia’s first injecting room in Sydney’s King’s Cross – Uniting’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC), among other reforms.

The NSW Health Minister, The Hon. Michael Holland took the stage, representing NSW Health Minister the Hon. Ryan Park to discuss Labor’s commitment to the Drug Summit, and reflected on the powerful harm reduction impacts of the 1999 summit.

This speech was closely followed by the Shadow NSW Health Minister the Hon. Matt Kean who took the chance to highlight the commitment of the Liberal Party to engaging with the Drug Summit, and spoke about the key things he believed made the 1999 Drug Summit so successful- “an abiding belief in evidence, and an exclusive focus on what worked”.

Attendees were then given the opportunity to hear an interview from two politicians that were present and involved within the 1999 Summit,- The Hon. Carmel Tebbutt, and the Hon Bob Carr. They spoke about the experience of the summit, reflecting on the “unbelievable power” of having so many different voices in the room, and the effectiveness of the format of the drug summit, especially the bipartisan engagement, for creating good policy.

Bob Carr took the opportunity to speak towards the parliamentarians in the room, telling them that on issues of passing Drug Law reform, “My wisdom is, you can win an argument by saying candidly to the families of New South Wales- this will save lives”.

Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich then spoke about his aspirations for the drug summit, echoing the voices of the sector about what needs to be on the table at the drug summit, and how education will be key within the process of the summit to change minds.

The event concluded with a panel discussion with participants from 1999, featuring Dr Annie Madden, Dr Ingrid Van Beek, Garth Popple, Tony Trimmingham and Clover Moore.

The event concluded with a panel discussion with participants from 1999, featuring Dr Annie Madden, Dr Ingrid van Beek, Garth Popple, Tony Trimmingham and Clover Moore.  

When speaking of the biggest impacts of the event- they all echoed the importance of having the experts in the room, and coming in with “open minds and the will to do something positive”.

Dr Annie Madden, Executive Director of Harm Reduction Australia,  spoke of the importance of having lived experience within the room to a successful summit, to tackle the “stickiness” of stigma,

When looking to the future summit, the panelists spoke about decriminalisation, an increase in treatment services and funding,  and the reduction of stigma as key parts of future drug policies.  

Check out the gallery of photos here!