1st May 2024 02:35pm
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan): 

We will not be supporting this motion. The opposition are not interested in reviewing the North Richmond medically supervised injecting room (MSIR) site in light of the recent comments by the Premier regarding feedback from the community, as stated in the motion. They want to close it down, not find a more suitable site.

The lack of courage shown by the government – the outright dismissal of the recommendations not only of Mr Ken Lay but of multiple eminent authorities to establish a safe injecting facility in the CBD – is deeply disappointing and far from being a win for traders or the community in the CBD. Typically, the opposition have used this opportunity to drum up fear and spread misinformation.

It is the same dog whistling and scare tactics we have unfortunately come to expect from the opposition on this issue.

There have been multiple reviews of MSIRs in general in Victoria and of the North Richmond MSIR in particular. They all conclude that supervised injecting rooms work in saving lives and, more importantly, in helping people move towards recovery.

Both in Richmond and in jurisdictions across the world it has been proven that these places save lives and the wraparound services they provide deliver a pathway to recovery and rebuilding lives, allowing people to deal with their trauma, their homelessness, their mental health and their broken relationships.

These are the facts: people suffering from addiction will use drugs whether there is an injecting room available or not. We know from research that heroin users will typically consume their drugs within 10 minutes of buying them.

The most suitable location for a safe injecting room therefore is close to where the drugs are being sold, and like it or not, long before the safe injecting facility was established in North Richmond people were buying and selling drugs there. As Mr Batchelor noted, it was and it remains a hotspot for the heroin trade.

Point (2)(d) of this motion is particularly egregious – that the Premier’s comments about being unable to find a suitable location are inconsistent with the decision to set up an injecting facility next to a primary school.

Well, as an aside, we dispute the Premier’s assertion that they were unable to find a suitable location in the CBD, but in relation to the school next to the North Richmond safe injecting facility, Richmond West Primary School was one of the facility’s greatest advocates. Why – Richmond West sits in between the towers of the Richmond housing estate.

On a daily basis children were being exposed to the sight of people injecting just over the other side of the school fence or, worse, the terrifying spectacle of people dying from drug overdoses before their eyes. This is what they told us.

Members interjecting.


I do not know if you have actually been out there. I have. I have spoken with people, and this is the truth of their reality.

This is what they are living with, and this is what the MSIR is seeking to address. Make no mistake, there were people overdosing and dying within view of those students on a regular basis. Without a safe place to inject drugs, people will continue to inject in alleyways, in car parks and in the unoccupied spaces behind primary schools.

When there is a safe place to inject, a safe injecting facility, they will use that.

Instead of reviewing Victoria’s only safe injecting facility with, let us face it, the intention of shutting it down, we should be looking to have more of these facilities where they are needed. There is need for such facilities in places like Footscray, Brimbank, St Kilda, Frankston and Dandenong.

This need is manifest. We should be pressuring the government to show some moral fortitude, some courage and some leadership to follow the evidence and the recommendations of Ken Lay, of Professor Margaret Hamilton, of Professor Alex Cockram and of Mr John Ryan, along with the countless harm reduction advocates who have worked in this area. Safe injecting rooms save lives and support people to access recovery and gain back their lives.


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