Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:19): I rise to speak and make some brief comments on a petition that was tabled by Mr Ondarchie yesterday. It was a petition calling on this Legislative Council to call ‘on the Andrews Labor government to reverse the decision and not put an injecting
room in our area’.
This was in regard to the announcement and the recommendation from the expert panel reviewing the supervised injecting room in North Richmond. There was a recommendation from them that a second centre be opened and be located in the CBD.
It was recognised that we had seen an influx in overdose deaths in the CBD and that there had been an increase in street drug use in the CBD, and so this warranted investigation into establishing a second room in the CBD.
I would just note out of a slight curiosity that this petition has been authorised by Mr Ondarchie. Now, under normal standing orders, or under normal protocol, a member of Parliament cannot initiate a petition and then table the petition themselves. I think it is interesting. I have not seen it before. I have not seen a petition authorised by a member of Parliament and then tabled by the same member. But having said that, it is a petition that was signed by some 200 people. It was a petition that was specifically looking at the Cohealth centre, which is down in Victoria Street in West Melbourne, quite close to the Queen Victoria Market there.
Now, I think it is a little bit premature to be starting to, I guess, encourage people to oppose this location, because we do not know that that is going to be the location.
What we do know is that there is a process that we are going through that is being undertaken by the department, by the City of Melbourne, by Cohealth, by the medical experts into what would be the best place, because there is no doubt we need a second one. North Richmond is at capacity. They are seeing thousands and thousands of people every day, and people are dying in the CBD from overdoses.
We know that there is open drug use there. We know that these centres act as a pathway to treatment. We know that if we can keep someone alive, they may well reach into treatment.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the CEO from Cohealth, Nicole Bartholomeusz, and Kim Webber from Cohealth to discuss what their thoughts were on a centre in the CBD. They really were imagining something quite different to the centre in North Richmond.
It would be a centre that is very much incorporated into the broader health services that Cohealth provides down there. As Cohealth
remarked, a considerable number of the people who access Cohealth at that location are intravenous drug users. There already is the cohort there.
This is what we know from the research in Australia and also overseas: if you are to set up a centre to help people stay alive while injecting drugs, you must set that up where they are actively using drugs.
If you are thinking that people will get on a bus and travel quite some distance up the road—some people have suggested up to St Vincent’s Hospital to use the centre up there—forget it. It does not happen. It does not work.
All over the world where we have seen this successful model that not only saves lives but reduces the level of blood-borne viruses in our community and improves the health and wellbeing of the people using those centres. Let us face it, these are people who are very vulnerable.
They have mental health issues. Many are homeless.