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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 November 2021) . . Page.. 3822 ..

I also quote another parent, Mrs Marion McConnell:

Our son died from a heroin overdose in 1992. My personal experience, as covered in my submission, left me with a deep-rooted conviction that our prohibition drug laws were pointlessly destroying lives and families, that these laws were unjust and wrong and served no real purpose.

I do support the bill wholeheartedly because I believe criminal sanctions for personal drug use cause more harm than they do good … I really think that criminalising people who use drugs, small amounts of drugs, is just not helpful. It does not help them to discuss if they have issues.

Mrs McConnell, unfortunately, was not alone in her experience of losing a child to heroin in the ACT. The inquiry really highlighted the blight of heroin on this community in the 1990s, and the impacts are still felt today. These parents and friends who have lost loved ones have been advocating for decades for their voice to be heard. If their loved one had received the help they needed, had lived in a community that showed compassion to those experiencing drug addiction, perhaps they would be here today. These families are normal, everyday families, contributing to society like everyone else, yet they have experienced so much loss.

No-one is above the impacts of drug addiction. What concerns me the most—and I think it was significantly highlighted by the inquiry—is the lack of voices from people with lived experience of drug use and dependence. I believe this highlights the stigma and trauma associated with drug dependency, and ultimately the disempowering nature of addiction.

Today, the conversation and fear in the community are very much about methamphetamine. It is worth noting that alcohol causes the most harm to our community, so let us start from that point. We do not fear alcohol like we do methamphetamine because it is legalised, glamorised and part of our culture. Yet for every person in our community that has been the brunt of alcohol-induced family violence, sexual violence or random acts of violence on our streets, every person who has been seriously injured or killed as a result of an alcohol-induced accident, alcohol is a very harmful drug. The billions of dollars behind this industry ensure that we do not stigmatise alcohol the way we do illicit drugs.

Methamphetamine does cause harm to those that use the drug and to our community. So does heroin. However, those using methamphetamine are those that need the most help in our community. I want to live in a community that views these people with compassion and supports them to get whatever help they may need.

That is exactly what the results of the survey that was conducted as part of this inquiry found. Overwhelmingly, Canberrans want to see drug dependency treated as a public health issue rather than as a criminal justice matter. I do understand that there are concerns about what this bill means. I say to people that do have concerns that I have never been involved in an inquiry that has had such a solid research evidence base. This is solid reform that has the potential to reduce harm from drugs. There are decades of research evidence to back this up. Similar human rights and health-focused reforms are occurring worldwide, and the overwhelming evidence is that decriminalisation does not increase drug use.

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