The 24th of February 2021 marks International Family Drug Support Day. This is a non-partisan event reflecting the widespread support for families dealing with drug use issues that exist across all political parties and the community.
This year’s theme is ‘family connection – not touch love’, and it is hoped that families in difficult circumstances will take the steps necessary to seek the support they need.
The Melbourne IFDSD day event was hosted by Family Project Officer, Chloe Span of Family Drug Support Australia.
- Sam Biondo (CEO VAADA) highlighted how stigma and discrimination of people who use drugs has significantly harmed families and community members for decades and how the treatment sector could do more to include families as important additions to their loved one’s recovery journey. Sam is a strong advocate for drug policy change and is a valued member of the AOD sector here in Victoria.
- Fiona Patten MP (Member of the Legislative Council) shared a personal story about her family member who had a chaotic journey with injecting drug use, including unexpected overdose events in Fiona’s bathroom to a degree, where her family were not sure if this person would survive. Fiona continued to explain that this person is now very healthy and happy with a family and children and a respected professional of their own. She also suggested that as part of her attendance today that other politicians in attendance and herself, should start a ‘friends of drug law reform group’ in the Victorian parliament. To which David Limbrick suggested should be launched on Support Don’t Punish Day.
- Sione Crawford (CEO of Harm Reduction Victoria) also told a heartfelt story about his own journey with problematic substance use and how without the support of his family he is not sure where he would be today. As someone who represents a state-based AOD service this was much appreciated by the audience and one of the highlights of the event. He also spoke of the important work of Harm Reduction Victoria in being the user representative organisation in Victoria and explained much of the powerful work that they do with substance users and the boarder community.
- Cassandra (FDS Volunteer) gave a powerful talk about the importance of non-judgmental service provision and capacity building amongst communities effected by substance use. She talked about FDS being a facilitator of greater connectedness amongst people who feel ashamed and isolated in their journey of supporting a family member. She explained the core principles of FDS in that we never give advice and believe families are the experts in their own loved ones and believe Australian families deserve a lot better than to be arguably misled by the mainstream media when it comes to people to who drugs and the drugs themselves.
- Sally (FDS Stepping Stones attendee) shared her story about supporting her son Sebastian who had a chaotic experience with methamphetamine use. She gave an emotional telling of the shut doors and lack of support from the wider service system for Sebastian when he was in active use. She reflected on the most important things for her was accessing FDS and receiving ongoing and professional support to help her re-engage with her son. She also explained who she is motived to bring a ‘kindness centre’ to Frankston Hospital for people drug effected and not welcome anywhere else in the community.
- Tim Read MP (Member of the Legislative Assembly) talked about the current push back against the second Melbourne Medically Supervised Injecting Centre is arguably stigma in action, and how it is up to everyone in the room to play a role in correcting misinformation about successful drug policy implementations. Tim is following in The Greens tradition of progressing drug policy conversations, introducing the first pill testing bill into Victorian parliament for fixed-site and mobile drug-checking services throughout the Melbourne metro area.
- David Limbrick (Member of the Legislative Council) Reflected on the need for more harm reduction oriented services that protect valuable members of the community, while risks are taken during certain periods of a person’s life. He supports a policy of full decriminalisation of possession charges for people who use drugs, joining strong advocates in the upper house and is a welcome addition to the Victorian Cross-Bench.