Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 November 2021) . . Page.. 3821 ..
We are concerned that current laws create barriers to treatment. We want to say strongly that treatment works, and the more we can connect people who need and want treatment to that treatment the better our society will be. Taking away the criminal consequences of being caught with a small amount of drugs for personal use is actually a really big part of reducing the stigma.
When you talk to people who have been drug users, the criminal consequence is one of the barriers for them in terms of reaching out for help and assistance when they have needed it. I do feel that very act of not having that criminal consequence is very important.
We also advocate that what we want in our society is for there to be open and honest conversation around people with drug and alcohol use. All the evidence shows that having those open and honest conversations means that we do not drive this kind of behaviour into the shadows. That is what we would like to see and why we support a decriminalised system.
Some very important points have been raised here. It is the shadows that scare us as a community. If we bring the people who are most vulnerable, most traumatised, struggling in a cycle of addiction, out of the shadows and into the light of the caring and compassionate society that we are, the very people left in the shadows are those that are producing and supplying these drugs to our community, and that is exactly where the police can focus their attention.
Throughout the public hearings held between 8 and 30 July, the committee heard from 51 community members and stakeholders. We heard from parents, those who live everyday with the loss of their child, and we heard from those who were at the point of despair at how to get their children help. As a member of this committee, I cannot thank you enough for your bravery in sharing your stories with the committee. I have very real compassion for your stories and experiences, and that is why I feel very passionate about seeing this bill become law in the ACT.
I wish to share with the Assembly some direct quotes, particularly from Mr Ross Bingham and Mrs Mary Bingham, who spoke of their experience with their son Cameron. They said:
When Cameron had an episode at home again, we rang the police. They spoke to both of us; they knew us well, as they had been to our house many times. They said that the only way to help him would be to get him arrested … Ross and I agreed; we went and did that … The only thing is that Cameron is a dual citizen … He has a US passport as well. We held off on getting him arrested because you do not want to have your own kid arrested on a criminal charge. He would lose his American passport. Any opportunities for him to go and work in the States and live there would be finished. We held off on that for a bit. He is not a criminal; it just leads to criminal acts—violence, there is a lot of property damage that we have had over the years, and all sorts of things. Cameron, as a normal person, is funny and charismatic; he is a real hoot to be around … He is a really kind soul. This stuff turns them into real monsters. At the end of the day, that is what we ended up having to do.