Not opening a second supervised injecting room fails Victoria’s most vulnerable people

Apr 24, 2024

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and The Balit Durn Durn Centre are deeply disappointed by the Victorian Government’s decision to abandon the establishment of a second medically supervised injecting room in Melbourne.

As part of its Statewide Action Plan, the Government opted against opening a second supervised injection service citing that it had been “unable to identify a suitable site that balances the needs of people who use drugs with the needs of the broader CBD community.”

The government’s decision goes against former Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria Ken Lay’s report which recommended a small, supervised injecting room with space for four to six people be set up in an area of high use in the city.

Evidence demonstrates that medically supervised injection rooms save lives.

By opting against building a second facility in the Melbourne CBD, the government is denying potentially life-saving care to the most vulnerable members of the Victorian community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities in Victoria are disproportionately impacted by fatal overdoses when compared to non-Indigenous Victorians.

The ‘Fatal overdose among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Victoria 2018-2021 report’ (2023) states that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience fatal overdoses at a rate more than three times higher than non-Indigenous people.

The report noted an average annual rate of fatal overdose among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria being 24.1 fatal overdoses per 100,000 population per year, compared to a rate of 7.8 fatal overdoses per 100,000 population per year among non-Indigenous people.

In 2024, the significant disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people should not exist.

Executive Director of VACCHO’s Balit Durn Durn Centre Sheree Lowe says that medically supervised safe injection rooms save lives.

“The decision to not open a second medically supervised safe injecting room in the Melbourne CBD, goes against an abundance of compelling evidence, and expert advice,” says Ms. Lowe.

“The North Richmond site services a significant number of members of the Aboriginal Community, offering crucial services and pathways for additional treatment and support to combat addiction. Opting against establishing an additional site, perpetuates difficulties for many Community members in accessing potentially life-saving support.”

“We still have a long way to go to address alcohol and drug challenges in Victoria. The stigma and discrimination that exists towards people who struggle with substance use compounds the complexities when seeking support.

“We need a service system that is safe, accessible and responsive so that when the most vulnerable members of community reach out for help that the system can respond in a way that is healing not hindering.”

Feature image: Melbourne’s first injecting room opened in North Richmond. (Photographer: James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.