1st of May 2024, 12:36pm
Legislative Council of Victoria, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan):

My question is to the Minister for Mental Health, Minister Stitt. In his report into the proposed medically supervised injecting room service for the City of Melbourne, independent chair Ken Lay wrote:

“… there is … strong evidence from the North Richmond MSIR trial and other similar trials around the world that injecting services save lives and assist in putting people who inject drugs on a pathway to better health and social outcomes.”

He found a continuing and clear need to establish a supervised injecting service trial in the CBD.

In its response to the report, the government stated that it was unable to identify a suitable site that balances the needs of people who use drugs with the needs of the broader CBD community. We understand that only one location was subject to community consultation and that was for a site adjoining the Queen Victoria Market.

Can the minister advise if the community was consulted on any other potential locations in the CBD and what those locations were?

Ingrid STITT (Western Metropolitan – Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs): 

I thank Mr Ettershank for his question and his interest in these important issues. As the government has made clear, Ken Lay undertook significant work over a period of time from 2020 through to May last year, and I do want to acknowledge the thorough work that he did.

As part of his final report, he detailed more than 150 consultations that he undertook in the CBD over the establishment of a medically supervised injecting service but also more broadly on drug harms in the CBD.

That is actually all detailed in the Lay report, Mr Ettershank, and you can go to the detail of that significant stakeholder consultation that was undertaken.

It included a number of different agencies, CBD-based businesses, service providers in the AOD sector, people with lived and living experience of drug use – importantly, I think – and of course the broader CBD community.

I would also point you to Ken Lay’s terms of reference in terms of what he was asked to deliver to government, and you are correct in relation to Victoria Street, but that original consultation was specifically around a site in Victoria Street. But I think that if you go to his report, it is clear that there is no consensus around the CBD.

Both phases one and two of his work included consultations around locations; as I said, Victoria Street was phase one. Then there was a partnership group that was set up to consider three locations in phase two of Ken Lay’s work, and that included two locations in Flinders Street.

Terms of reference are detailed, as I said, in Ken Lay’s report, and I understand that even a member of this chamber was consulted as a community member during this phase, and I suppose he would know the page number that he is referenced on as well.

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan): 

I thank the minister for her answer. I would also like to acknowledge that the government has committed to delivering other valuable harm-based initiatives in response to the report.

We particularly welcome the government’s announcement of a comprehensive statewide response to address drug-related harm. In the past week the government has made much of following the evidence in relation to the state’s alcohol and drug policies, and we should follow that evidence.

I think that is agreed. It is an admirable project. The minister noted yesterday that ‘around 90 per cent of all heroin-involved overdoses’ are occurring outside the City of Melbourne and that it was clear that drug harms are a statewide challenge requiring a statewide solution.

As there continues to be strong evidence that medically supervised injecting services are needed in Footscray, Brimbank, St Kilda, Frankston and Dandenong, will the government follow this evidence and commit to establishing supervised injecting services in these locations?

Ingrid STITT (Western Metropolitan – Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs): 

Thank you very much, Mr Ettershank, for your supplementary question. The government has been very clear that we have no plans to pursue a second injecting service in the CBD or anywhere else for that matter.

I understand and respect the fact that there are different views about the decision that the government has taken in relation to these difficult and complex public policy matters, but I do believe that not only will the statewide action plan provide support in the CBD of a significant nature but also that there will be access to additional support statewide.

That will include additional access to pharmacotherapy. It will include the establishment of a helpline to assist people who do choose to use drugs intravenously to do so safely, for those that access that service.


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