05 May 2014

hand reaching for drugsThe University of South Australia’s Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre is set to host a national conversation on illicit drugs and how Australia can ‘get smarter’ when it comes to drugs policy.

The event, ‘Young Australians – smarter about drugs’, will be held this Wednesday (May 7). It will comprise a workshop for high school students in the afternoon and a public event with leading thinkers that will be live streamed around Australia in the evening.

It is being supported by non-profit research organisation Australia 21, which specialises in addressing difficult issues facing Australia, and the Noffs Foundation which supports young people affected by drugs and alcohol.

Hawke Centre Executive Director Jacinta Thompson says the event will provide an opportunity for everyone – especially young people – to discuss illicit drugs and policy options.

“There is a growing recognition that Australia’s drug policies are not working, and it is young Australians who are most likely to be affected,” Thompson says.

“Young people are more likely to develop serious health, social or legal problems from drug use, and can experience severe criminal justice sanctions with life-changing impacts through to adulthood.

“This event will generate robust dialogue and ideas in order to better understand a complex and serious issue facing many young Australians … a conversation that needs to be had.”

The public event features former Australian Federal Police Commissioner and Australia 21 Director Mick Palmer as one of the guest speakers.

Palmer says while reducing organised drug importation must remain an important part of law enforcement strategy, illicit drug use should be recognised as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

“If we are to make genuine progress and make a positive difference, these people need to be helped and treated, not criminalised,” Palmer says.

Palmer will be joined by fellow guest speakers Street University founder Matt Noffs, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation President Alex Wodack, and Australia 21 Honorary Youth Advisor Vivienne Moxham-Hall.

Moxham-Hall says it is vital young people are engaged to consider solutions to the problem.

“Every young person put in jail for drug use will become one less person who can contribute his or her full potential to the future of Australia,” she says.

“We must take into consideration a range of alternative approaches to drug laws to make life safer for young people.”

The event will be live-streamed from the Hawke Centre website. Participants can interact and ask questions during the event with speakers and the live audience by following the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #smartaboutdrugs

For more information and to register, click here.

Media contact: Kelly Stone office 8302 0963 mobile 0417 861 832 email Kelly.stone@unisa.edu.au

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