We are a diverse group of people with a range of experiences united in our desire for an approach to drugs based on honesty, connection and care. Unharm is a volunteer-driven organisation.
Established in 2014, Unharm has a track record of strong community engagement and campaign success. We did early policy work and organising for the campaign for pill testing, and launched a petition that generated over 100,000 supporters and hundreds of pieces of earned media to help keep the issue high on the agenda. We helped form an alliance of organisations to stop a federal government bill that would have punished poor people by taking away their welfare payments if they used drugs. We brought hundreds together at an event in Sydney with Portuguese drug policy leader Manuel Cardoso, generating substantial media coverage and meetings with ministers to put decriminalisation of drug use on the policy agenda. And we’ve run forums for members of the community including people who use drugs to contribute directly to the development of Unharm’s strategy.
In 2018, Unharm won a place in the Centre for Australian Progress’ Progress Labs program. Participation in this program helped refine the strategy, plan for organisational growth, and increase philanthropic support. Through 2019 Unharm spawned another successful startup - pill testing service provider The Loop Australia - to help deliver on a long term campaign for pill testing in Australia. In 2020 we’ve just launched Story Lab - the first stage in our new strategy to shift the media narrative about drugs. We’re now looking forward to the next phase of growth where we will scale up Story Lab and build out our framework for community organising.
Unharm has received core financial support from Vasudhara Foundation and from many other private donors - large and small. Unharm also received strategy support from The Centre for Australian Progress through the Progress Labs program.
Unharm is based in Sydney, Australia.
Unharm is a health promotion charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, with tax-deductible gift recipient status.
Founding of Unharm
Unharm was founded in 2014. At the time, co-founder and Executive Director Will Tregoning was working on drug policy as a research consultant to government, and becoming frustrated that while the War on Drugs had failed, there was no real alternative. Despite promising reforms worldwide, the discussion about drugs was based on dishonesty about who used drugs and why. Privileged people were relatively immune from the harms of prohibition and, combined with the risks of admitting to illegal drug use, that meant many people with the capacity to help weren’t getting involved. Journalist and author Lisa Pryor wrote about these issues in her 2011 book A small book about drugs. In conversation, Will and Lisa came up with the idea for Unharm and brought in co-founders Miles Hunt, a lawyer and activist, and Gideon Warhaft, an entrepreneur with a long involvement in drug policy. They established Unharm as a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation in 2014.
Will's professional experience is in drug and alcohol program evaluation, social policy research, communications and campaigning. He completed a Bachelor of Arts and a PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney before beginning a career as a research and evaluation consultant to Australian government departments and agencies. Will’s personal and professional experience made him aware of scale, patterns and demographics of prohibited substance use across Australia, the barriers to good policy, and the need for new approaches. He founded Unharm in 2014 to work with communities of activists to promote policy innovation, wellbeing and practices of care.
Gideon Warhaft has worked in harm reduction and drug law reform for many years, motivated by his belief that the war on drugs has been the most damaging and costly social experiment in his lifetime. As editor of the NSW Users & AIDS Association’s (NUAA) User’s News, one of the foremost drug user and harm reduction magazines in the world, he advocated for sensible drug policies and helped educate people to consume drugs more safely. During his time at NUAA Gideon worked closely with many drug policy and service delivery bodies, including the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre and NSW Justice Health, and advocated for drug policy reform extensively in the media. As well as his current work with the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and Unharm, Gideon is a regular contributor to the national drug and alcohol magazine Of Substance
Miles is a personal injury lawyer in private practice in Sydney. He attended Macquarie University where he obtained a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy). before being admitted to the Supreme Court of NSW as a solicitor in 2008. Miles was a Senate candidate for Drug Law Reform Australia in the 2013 Federal Election. He is also an amateur comedian who performs regularly at clubs in and around Sydney. Miles believes strongly in legalisation, regulation and taxation of drugs and is committed to promoting reform in Australia. He began his involvement in drug law reform as a reaction to the injustice of the criminalisation of drug users.
Lisa Pryor has an interest in drug policy from a medical, legal and social perspective, an interest she explored in her book A Small Book About Drugs: the debate we need to have about recreational drugs (Allen & Unwin 2011). She has a law degree, with first class honours, from the University of Sydney and is currently completing medical school at the same university. She has worked as a journalist for more than a decade, principally at The Sydney Morning Herald where her roles included reporter, columnist and opinion page editor.