Greens MP Adam Bandt called on the State Government to support the controversial supervised injecting centre at a public meeting in North Richmond on Wednesday night.
Bandt spearheaded a panel of locals who opened up on their experiences with drug-affected people in the area to stress the importance of the divisive facility going ahead.
“This is a really, really important issue locally,” Bandt told the full house at Loughnan Hall. “The local council as you know is in favour, but this is very much a state issue.”
Premier Daniel Andrews and the State Opposition have refused to support the plan, which the Federal Melbourne MP Bandt, first elected in 2010, said will “save lives” in Richmond.
The Government’s preferred alternative, extra CCTV cameras along Victoria Street, will not do enough according to Bandt, who argued their success in the City of Maribyrnong.
“Syringe collections inside the camera zone more or less stayed the same,” he said. “Outside of the camera zone within a 1km radius, syringe collections actually went up.”
Peter Wearne of the local Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS), called the government’s policies “inhumane” and said what he sees daily in North Richmond is “totally unnecessary,
“This [situation] is all down to the intimidation, exploitation and corruption by the State Government,” he said. “We know what the solutions are but they are refusing to apply them,”
“It is poor planning and ridiculous thinking.”
Wearne, who helped set up YSAS during the late 1990s drug epidemic, said he has seen “no change in 20 years” when “heroin deaths were placed next to car deaths in the newspaper.
“Every two weeks we see a needless overdose death in this area, and 5000 young people across Victoria each year, these are traumatised, hurt children.”
Fomer Yarra councillor and drug law reform advocate Kathleen Maltzahn called on the people of Richmond to make the facility an election issue.
Maltzahn, who contested the seat of Richmond at the last election, used the cancellation of the East-West Link road project as an example of people power within the locality.
“Tonight the room is overflowing with people that care.
“This seat was won by less than 700 votes at the last election,” she said. “Let’s put democracy into action and make the Richmond injecting clinic our East-West Link policy.”
The next Victorian State Election is in November 2018.