Will Tregoning speaking at last Thursday's event. Source: Wayside Chapel
Will Tregoning speaking at last Thursday's event. Source: Wayside Chapel

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By Emily Contador-Kelsall

Last week, Kings Cross joined the United Nations Global Day of Action against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking by calling for an end to counterproductive and harmful drug culture and stigmas in the local area.

On Thursday, June 26, King Cross’ Wayside Chapel hosted Sydney’s action against the ‘war on drugs’, and included a call for a second medically supervised injecting centre (MSIC) in Sydney.

‘Support. Don’t Punish: Global Day of Action’, was orchestrated by the Chapel in conjunction with Unharm, a not for profit organisation aimed at reducing drug harm and demand. Together, the organisations are calling on governments to end the expensive and ineffective ‘war on drugs’.

Will Tregoning, Kings Cross resident and co-founder of Unharm, said the laws that Australia currently has are out of step with the reality of drug use and users.

“We always hear about the street crisis of drugs. The thing is, and this is something which is so clear in the Cross, is that, the street is the phenomenon of poor and marginalised people’s drug use.”

“[The poor and marginalised] are the ones who buy and use drugs on the street.”

“What this means is people who are already poor and marginalised and among those, the people who use drugs, are far more likely to end up being caught, going through the criminal justice system and it pushes them further away from normal society.”

At Thursday’s event, supporters and individuals who are involved with Wayside Chapel’s Tolerance Room shared personal narratives to mark the global day of action and celebrate the opening of the Tolerance Room, Australia’s first supervised injecting facility, 15 years earlier.

The Tolerance Room lead to the opening of Sydney’s first MSIC.

“We take them [drug users] out of the public back streets, back alleyways, we take them into a place where people really do care, and people really do bear witness and they’re there in the case of an over dose or emergency,” said Dr Marianne Jauncey, director of the MSIC.

“There’s never been a death from a drug overdose in any one of the supervised injecting centres anywhere in the world.”

The current MSIC is supported by the Kings Cross community, as is the possibility of a second MSIC.

Marcus Ross from Wayside Chapel said, “today there is a majority support from local residents and businesses for a second injecting centre”.

Mr Tregoning said the last time Unharm evaluated the centre it was supported by 78% of people in the community.

“[MSICs] are necessary in the sense that what they do is, for some of these people who are so marginalised, it provides them with a pathway into receiving those kinds of services that can help them.”

“I don’t want my kids to grow up in a community where there is already marginalised groups of people who get pushed further downwards.”