Calls for Melbourne to trial Kings Cross-style safe injecting room

There's a renewed push for a safe injecting facility in an inner-Melbourne suburb that's been plagued by heroin abuse.

Sydney injecting

File image of injecting cubicles at Sydney's Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Sydney, Australia. Source: AP

The streets of the city-fringe suburb of North Richmond just south-east of Melbourne have long been a hotbed of heroin dealing and use.

The suburb already has an exchange where users are given clean needles, but they're then forced onto the street to inject.

That's unlike Sydney's safe injecting facility in Kings Cross, which permits users to inject in a supervised environment.

Auditing firm KPMG assessed the Sydney model after 10 years and found that it both reduced drug-related deaths and exposed users to qualified carers.

Sex Party MP Fiona Pattern has introduced a private member's bill to the Victorian Parliament for a similar safe injecting room to be subject to an 18-month trial in Melbourne.

She says it is a proven model.

"We have seen the evidence in New South Wales and around the world that systems like this centres like this actually work - they save lives they reduce ambulance call outs - they improve the amenity of the area," she said.

Concurrent inquiries into heroin overdoses are ongoing in Victoria, but according to Health Minister Jill Hennessy current policy doesn't include a safe injecting facility. 

"We've got no plans to introduce such a model I always bring an open mind to evidence and I'll be looking at the results of the parliamentry inquiry and the coronial inqest with great interest," she said.

Lachlan, 22, told SBS he has injected heroin most days over the last 18 months.

"Normal day usually involves waking up feeling like crap until I get my first shot. Makes me feel good and blocks out all my problems and that."

He would usually inject himself in laneways and back alleys, exposing himself to a range of health and safety issues.

"Normally, (I) just get out my spoon put the gear in and yeah, you always got dirt and that can get into your gear make your gear dirty - and that's never a good thing."

He said his use is linked directly to homelessness and believes solving that would help him to embark on a drug-free life. 

"Once I've got somewhere to live I should be able to stop it - I've stopped it before so yeah I should be able to do it again."

Social Worker Greg Denham is part of a growing group supporting the Sex Party's push. He said having a safe space is vital.

"They can overdose - they can get all sorts of infections and obviously they can die as well - It's not unusual to come behind these factories and other places and find someone who's overdosed."

3 min read
Published 7 February 2017 at 9:14pm
By Luke Waters
Source: SBS