Criticisms of the Early Drug Detection Initiative (EDDI) in NSW don’t meet community expectations 

Criticisms of the new Early Drug Detection Initiative (EDDI) in NSW this morning are unhelpful and harmful. 

“Governments are to be congratulated when they make positive, evidence-based changes to our unfair drug laws and Uniting some weeks ago welcomed the efforts of the Minns Government, with the support of the Liberal/ National Opposition and the majority of other MPs from across the Parliament, to do just that,” Emma Maiden, Uniting NSW.ACT’s General Manager of Advocacy & External Relations, said. 

“These were evidence based, modest changes that passed the Parliament with multi-party support, and any suggestion that there was some secrecy about this small change to our unfair drug laws in NSW is plainly false. 

We issued a statement and gave interviews to media earlier this month following the EDDI coming into effect on 29 February. The real question that we wanted answered was – why aren’t we doing more? 

“Our current approach to policing drugs has failed.  

“Failed to reduce demand, failed to reduce harm. Our current unfair drug laws perpetuate stigma and create harm by driving people away from seeking and finding support. 

“The introduction of the EDDI scheme, formerly proposed by the Coalition government, is multi-party recognition that the 23,000 people arrested every year for drug use or possession in NSW (19,000 of whom go to court) would be better served by an interaction with a health service,” Emma said. 

“EDDI also signalled agreement that we need to have a more honest, open and ongoing conversation about alcohol and other drugs, and it recognises that our current laws perpetuate stigma and create harm by driving people away from seeking and finding support. 

“This measure is widely supported across the Parliament and with broad community support, which is a rare combination in any area of public policy. 

Community support for health and welfare-based responses to drug use continues to grow, as revealed last month by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in the National Drug Strategy Household Survey.  

“The survey results strongly align with what we believed was already happening out there in the community. Right now, more and more people believe that drug use and dependency should be treated by a health professional and not by a police officer or a court. 

“These results of last month’s survey tell us very clearly that the removing criminal penalties for personal use of drugs is broadly supported by Australians.  

“The long promised 5-day Parliamentary Drug Summit will be another significant opportunity for reflection. 

“The sooner we get a date for this much anticipated event, that mirrors the format of the successful 1999 Summit, the sooner we can get closer to the critical reforms that must follow this first important step,” Emma said. 

“In the meantime, we welcome any opportunity to meet with any MP to have them hear firsthand from the experts and those with lived experience ahead of the Drug Summit,” Emma said.