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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 50..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

In addition to increasing access, the machines have the potential to service a hidden population of injecting drug users who do require complete confidentiality. The main objectives of introducing vending machines include increased access to the means of blood-borne disease prevention, complementation of the educative role of the needle and syringe program, the provision of anonymous 24-hour access to sterile injecting equipment, provision of access to new equipment for intravenous drug users not currently utilising any existing service, the provision of a cost-effective means of dispensing needles and syringes and the maximisation of the proper disposal of used equipment through the provision of a disposal bin.

The location and type of vending machine is still being negotiated. The experience of other jurisdictions shows that the locations for vending machines must be carefully chosen. The machines need to be placed in areas that users frequent and the users' need for anonymity must be balanced with the need to protect the machines from vandalism or inappropriate use. The machines must also be fitted with protective metal grills to help combat vandalism. Installation of sharps disposal facilities nearby and reliable servicing of the machines are also essential.

The government is actively encouraging community pharmacies to increase their involvement in the needle and syringe program as well. The government supports the principles of harm minimisation in correctional facilities. However, a range of issues need to be considered in the development of an appropriate model, such as duty of care issues for custodians and occupational health and safety issues for staff. Although the adult correctional facility environment has been identified as high risk in terms of blood-borne viral infection due to the high rates of injecting, tattooing, unsafe sexual practice and the high prevalence of hepatitis C, the extent of these problems in some or all of the ACT's facilities is unclear. The government will examine the costs and benefits, and indeed feasibility, of these committee recommendations further in conjunction with corrections officers, youth justice staff and relevant health experts.

Mr Speaker, the government recognises the need to address barriers faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in accessing mainstream services through the provision of culturally sensitive and appropriate services that are developed in collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The government also believes that needle and syringe outlets should be culturally sensitive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally and linguistically diverse clients. The government will continue to work with these communities to progress these issues further.

The government believes that the current program operating in the ACT is, in the main, a very good system. However, improvements can be made to the program to ensure better access to injecting equipment for the ACT community and better information and education about intravenous drug use. The government thanks the Standing Committee on Health for the work undertaken in relation to these issues and is committed to progressing the implementation of a number of the report's recommendations. I commend the report to the Assembly.

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