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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2282 ..

MS GALLAGHER (4.32): I, too, thank Ms Dundas for bringing this to the Assembly as a matter of public importance. Drug Action Week 2002 has been an excellent opportunity to draw attention not only to the problem of substance addiction and abuse but also to the many community organisations and individuals who confront the real issues every day and deal with people with seriously degraded health and life prospects due to drug addiction.

National Drug Action Week is also an opportunity for policy makers to recognise the enormity of this issue, the need to adopt policy initiatives that recognise substance dependency fundamentally as a health issue and the importance of relating policy not to ideological rhetoric but to the very real need people have for the protection and support of government in dealing with and overcoming dependency.

ACT Community Care workers offer the best standards possible in promoting awareness to drug users of the hazards of all types of drugs and highlighting the health rather than criminal implications of drug use. We should not forget the serious implications of tobacco and alcohol abuse when educating all sectors of the community on the harmful and addictive substances that damage the health and wellbeing of individuals, family and the community.

The ACT's health services run a number of programs to address substance abuse. These include information and advice services, withdrawal services, access to methadone and other pharmacotherapies, case management, counselling and needle and syringe exchange services.

The COAG agreement brought many other community organisations into diversion strategies to remove people from the criminal justice system and treat their issues correctly-as health issues. These community organisations provide a range of treatments to divert dependants away from criminal sanction, recognising the medical basis of drug dependency and the social obligation of government and community to provide an alternative to imprisonment. The workers in these areas perform their work admirably and are deserving of our acknowledgment during this national Drug Action Week.

In looking at the treatment of drug dependence as a health issue, we need strategies that address the socio-economic causes of substance dependency. I am not confident at all that the federal tough on drugs policy does this. We need to acknowledge as a community the significant impact homelessness, poor education, lack of employment and inadequate social support networks have on the users of drugs. By looking into the social causes of drug dependency rather than having a narrow focus on an outcome of drug dependency-criminal activity-we can begin to implement appropriate preventative strategies grounded on empirical evidence and not moral judgment.

Consideration of these issues complements a health-based approach to drug use and expands the scope of policy to target not just individuals who may be in need but also communities that may suffer high rates of dependency because of socio-economic conditions. Good governance requires the addressing of this issue. Being tough on drugs does not do this. The federal government policy of being tough on drugs has resulted in $213 million in funding being earmarked for supplier reduction measures-and I quote:

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