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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 12 February 2008) . . Page.. 105 ..

certainly not an easy job and there are few people with the fortitude for this kind of work. Chronic drug users, I am advised, are not known for their cooperative and candid nature, and I have certainly seen this myself in dealing with some alcoholics. It takes an especially committed person to take on the challenge of assisting people who often resist this assistance. Indeed, Ms Mead informed me that new staff must be carefully trained to ensure that their good nature does not lead them to be taken advantage of. I was fortunate to meet some new recruits during my visit and to wish them all the best in their careers. But, of course, these staff will certainly have their work cut out for them.

Between facilities in the city and in Phillip, Directions ACT deal with approximately 1,750 people per month. Efforts to break chronic drug abuse problems are notoriously difficult. I was certainly interested to learn that chronic drug users are often very ritualistic about their drug use in the sense that they rely on established patterns of behaviour to feel comfortable, so much so that chronic users who are unable to obtain drugs will even inject water as a placebo purely in order to avoid breaking their pattern of behaviour.

The harm minimisation model adopted by Directions ACT is a controversial one, and I have been one of those who have held a great deal of scepticism about efforts to deal with drug users without an overt push for abstinence. I must say that I was interested to hear from Ms Mead on the benefits of this approach. One of the most important benefits of this approach is that it prevents the spread of disease in cases where drug users have no intention of abstaining from their drug use.

Ms Mead reported that in their first year of injected drug use approximately half of all users will contract hepatitis C. The risk is particularly high for young women, who are often injected by others. This is a particularly important topic in light of the impending opening of a new prison in the ACT. Experience sadly tells us that prisons are an area where we can expect high levels of drug problems to occur. This is a a most critical issue since we are about to start painting on a blank canvas. We have only one chance to get things right before a particular culture is established at the prison which I suspect will be extremely difficult to change.

Whether this is a culture of indiscriminate drug use that leads to severe levels of disease, or whether this is a culture of safer drug use will depend upon how the prison is run in its first period of operation. But certainly some doubts have now been established in my mind following my meetings with Directions ACT. I am personally unconvinced that it will be possible to keep drugs entirely out of prisons, no matter how noble that objective might be.

There are a great many channels by which drugs can enter our prisons—even, unfortunately, in some jurisdictions through prison workers themselves. My understanding of economics tells me that where there is great enough demand there will inevitably be supply. We must look carefully at these issues and develop measures to reduce the impact on our society.

Ainslie school choir

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (6.04):

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