You might have noticed it doesn’t happen every day in drug policy. That’s why the past week has been so significant - major wins on the Welfare Reform Bill and on pill testing.
There’s more to do, and plenty of opportunity for you to get involved, including upcoming Unharm activist events in Melbourne September 27 and Sydney October 5, and the outrageously excellent fundraiser UNDEAD2 in Sydney October 28.
For details on all this, and the outcome of Unharm’s recent strategy planning day, read on!
Welfare Reform Bill
Last Friday the Federal Government pushed back the Senate vote on the Welfare Reform Bill because it couldn’t get the numbers to pass the legislation. The Bill contains the jobseeker drug testing trial, and a couple of other schedules that would kick people with substance use disorders when they are down. Unharm has played a key role, coordinating a broad group of allies in the campaign against the Bill.
No doubt the government thought that this Bill would sail through. The fact that it hasn't is testament to the strength of the campaign. Huge thanks to the many Unharm supporters who contacted MPs about this issue - you were crucial to the success of the campaign so far.
We need to keep the pressure up - this isn't a victory yet. But it does show how powerful we can be together, and that's incredibly exciting! More to come on this over the next month.
Outcome of strategy day
In March, Unharm began an ongoing process of expanding leadership, developing campaign strategy, training activists, and introducing a new operating model. This work has been supported by The Change Agency, and was made possible through funds raised by Unharm’s Sydney Queer Contingent.
What a great moment to jump in and mention you can support this ongoing work while having the time of your life on October 28: Unharm Queer Contingent’s totally excellent fundraising party UNDEAD is back! It's at the Oxford Arts Factory Sydney with an incredible line up of DJs and performers. Please come along - all welcome. Check the event page for more details & photos from the spectacular and outrageous 2016 event.
As part of this ongoing process, a group of Unharm activists came together in July for a workshop to develop and refine Unharm's campaigning work.
The workshop raised up the issue of stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs as a barrier for wellbeing and for our movement. This means that equity and empowerment for people who use drugs is a core objective for Unharm, and must be threaded through all our campaigning work. Unharm’s campaigns will incorporate but go beyond ‘consciousness raising’ work, and seek concrete changes in laws and policies to support equity and empowerment. Activists at the workshop also shared ideas about how we campaign, and particular emphasised
- Campaigning in coalitions with allied individuals and organisations.
- Collective, ‘grassroots’ action by members of the community who work on changing problems affecting our lives.
Synthesising the discussion on the day, the facilitation group wrote that 'campaigning with allies in the movement, our contribution is to show that drug use is common, and mostly a positive experience, and that people who use drugs are valuable members of our society who, like others, should be respected, not discriminated against or stigmatised.'
Upcoming events in Sydney and Melbourne
An agreed priority is to keep building the campaign for pill testing services in Australia. This is particularly timely with the exciting progress on this issue, with an ACT pill testing trial announced today. (Email the ACT Health Minister to say thanks at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Come be part of the action at upcoming events in Melbourne and Sydney.
If the Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville gets her way, then music festivals are about to drastically change for the worse. She wants to extend police powers to make our festivals less safe, less common, and less fun. This is her idea of a better alternative to pill testing.
On Thursday September 27 Unharm!'s Nevena Spirovska will be hosting an evening upstairs at The Gaso to address the Police Minister’s proposal and teach you about your rights and responsibilities in the context of police searches. Joining us on the night will be RMIT Legal Studies lecturer Dr Peta Malins, speaking about her work around drug policy and police accountability, and Nicholas Ward, who wrote a paper discussing the impact of Operation Safenight on the community. RSVP via Facebook here
Sydney, and beyond via Facebook Live
Come find out more about pill testing, and how you can get involved in making it a reality in Sydney this October 5th. We’ll have Dr Monica Barratt from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre talking about the latest developments in pill testing, including Monica’s recent experience conducting pill testing in Europe. This is an opportunity to get up to speed with where pill testing is at right now, and hear from Unharm organisers about how you can get involved in the campaign. RSVP via Facebook hereIf you've volunteered for Unharm - or you want to - and are keen to hear more about how you can get involved, these events are for you! See you there.