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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 March 2021) . . Page.. 653 ..

Once again, I wish to make it clear that the families who signed this petition are strongly supportive of Belconnen high’s Connecting to Country course and wish to see it continue. At the same time they want their local high school to comply with the curriculum requirements that this government has promised Canberrans in its own policy documents. They therefore call on the ACT government to take all steps necessary to resume the teaching of French for students in years 7 and 8 at Belconnen High School. I take the opportunity to commend to the Assembly the petition that I tabled this morning.

Ms Jude Byrne—tribute

MS VASSAROTTI (Kurrajong) (5.26): This afternoon I rise to speak about the life of colleague, activist and friend Jude Byrne. Jude Byrne was an internationally acclaimed advocate for injecting drug users, whose life’s work was fundamental to advocating for the inclusion of people who use drugs in the development of government policy on drug use. Jude died in Canberra earlier this month after a short illness. Her legacy of undertaking impactful and grounded advocacy will continue amongst drug user advocacy networks across the world as a reflection of her more than 30-year-long commitment to this extremely important cause.

Jude was intimately involved in establishing and running local, Australian and international drug user advocacy groups. Through these organisations, Jude advocated tirelessly against prohibition and for the human rights of people who use drugs, including an end to discrimination and stigma. Integral to this work was Jude’s commitment to feminist approaches to care, including amplifying the voices of those who are often unheard in decision-making processes, as well as centring the experiences of women who use drugs. Jude’s advocacy on the provision of accessible and timely hepatitis C treatment is one of the most significant contributions that Jude has made to the blood-borne virus and alcohol and other drugs sectors in the ACT. Jude’s work was dynamic and responsive. More recently, Jude undertook research with older people who inject drugs and the aged and ageing care sector to provide recommendations for caring for people who use drugs as they age.

Jude was fundamental to establishing the locally based national organisation, the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League, AIVL, whose research on the experiences of people who use and inject drugs is fundamental to shaping sector conversations about harm reduction, and indeed the national conversation about the dignity and health of people who use drugs.

Jude was also a board member of the International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users, where I got to work with her very closely, and a founding member of the International Network of People who Use Drugs. Her contribution to organising and advocating, including conducting research and speaking at national and international conferences, and her presence at key decision-making tables within and outside government over the last three decades, has had a profound impact and influence on the way in which this country has approached the needs of people who use drugs and the health and care provided to them.

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