Hope for a healthier community

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Anglicare Tasmania calls for evidence-based, effective action on illicit drugs that goes beyond harm minimisation and incorporates a much wider, more generous public health approach.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said:  There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

For more than 30 years, Anglicare has provided non-judgmental, trauma-informed, practical support to people in our community who use drugs. We help people to pull themselves out of the river.

Today we are funded by the Tasmanian government to provide this support in line with the State’s Healthy Tasmania Five-Year Strategic Plan 2022-26.

This plan prioritises safeguarding and improving the health and wellbeing of all Tasmanians, yet the criminalisation of drug possession and use exacerbates existing disadvantage and creates additional trauma.

Criminalisation – and the discrimination and stigma that accompany it – pushes individuals and their families to the margins of society and into poverty. It prevents them from accessing secure housing, employment and volunteering opportunities, social supports and health care; the social determinants that people need in order to flourish.

Criminal convictions do not prevent future crime, and they place a huge financial burden on the Tasmanian community.

There are now more than 30 nations that have decriminalised drugs. Decriminalisation is associated with reductions in the prevalence of drug use disorders and of deaths associated with drugs. In Australia, the ACT has already decriminalised the possession of a range of drugs.

“If we are to achieve a healthy Tasmania, we need evidence-based, effective action on drugs that goes beyond harm minimisation and incorporates a much wider, more generous public health approach,” says Anglicare Tasmania CEO Chris Jones.

“We are not advocating for the legalisation of the drugs that are currently illicit in Tasmania,” said Chris. “We have written to all Tasmanian members of Parliament requesting that the possession and personal use of these drugs should attract fines and treatment orders, rather than convictions and incarceration that perpetuate intergenerational disadvantage.

“We know that decriminalisation will not work unless there are strong wrap-around supports in place. A significant boost to support services that include needle and syringe programs, safe injecting rooms and better access to general practitioners and bulk-billed mental health programs, is required.

“Decriminalising illicit drugs is part of boosting the social determinants of health. It will reduce the drivers of drug use. It will demonstrate to people that it’s safe to ask for help,” said Chris.

Anglicare Tasmania has held this view for many years. We acknowledge that some people will find it challenging, but we urge people to open their hearts and minds to a more compassionate, respectful and just approach.

It will prevent people from falling into the river, and it’s the right thing to do.


This article is based on an opinion piece published in The Mercury on 29 June 2023 with the title “Wider approach needed on drugs”.

Read our paper

The position paper Action for a healthier community: an effective response to illicit drugs 2023 is published by Anglicare Tasmania’s Social Action and Research Centre.

Download position paper


Have your say

The Tasmanian Government is extending public consultation on its Tasmanian Drug Strategy 2023-2028. We encourage organisations and individuals with an interest in this topic to have their say by filling out an online community survey that is available on the Department of Health website, health.tas.gov.au

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