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Community health?

Two Readers, Ross Smith and Geoff Turnbull responded to the March SSH article “Needle dispensary in public interest?” in the April 2012 edition of The South Sydney Herald

Ross Smith wrote:

Professor Haber uses an interesting version of the phrase “community consultation” (“Needle dispensary in public interest?” SSH March 2012). He bases his claim of “a clear majority of people support the machine being installed” on the outcome of two recent community consultations – without supplying any details of these consultations. He refers to a third meeting of stakeholders for the purpose of creating a marketing campaign for the needle dispensing machine. He said that the public would not be able to attend that meeting. He also has an unusual method of deciding “the public interest”. There was no indication of any public involvement in the forming of the public interest announced by Professor Haber in the article. The hypocrisy displayed by Professor Haber when referring to “the community” became more visible when he said that there was no intention to consult with the greater community of the area. The sincerity of the local harm minimisation practitioners can be judged by the Community Drug Action Taskforce’s decision to not take part in a public forum on the dangers of using the illicit drug Ice. The rationale cited was that their appearance/involvement could appear to indicate support for the usage of Ice. That some members of the CDAT are responsible for the provision of needles to inject the illicit drug Ice raises the issue of selective viewpoints on

their part. The Community Drug Action Taskforce’s strong support of the needle dispensing machine has brought them into open conflict with the community of the area and various longstanding community-based organisations.

Ross Smith Waterloo

Geoff Turnbull wrote:

NSW Health continues to miss the point in Redfern Waterloo. It is not just about blindly servicing their clients, it is also about working with the Redfern Waterloo communities. We did not get the Community Health Centre we were promised. When it arrived the Community had been dropped in both name and in the services operated from it.

Community concerns about health issues keep coming up at meetings but NSW Health has no one designated to deal with the community over those issues. The result has been increased polarisation on issues like harm minimisation, drug and alcohol issues and mental health.

In 2004 the Parliamentary Inquiry into Redfern Waterloo recommended NSW Health and Council undertake a community education campaign on harm minimisation. Instead of doing that NSW Health polarised the community further by refusing to talk to locals about their needle bus concerns.

If NSW Health needed a DA for its Redfern dispensing machine, as they did in Surry Hills, they would have to explain the issues, there would be a community discussion and NSW Health would have to address the questions thrown up. Both Council and NSW Health say the Surry Hills process was a good one. But NSW Health already has approval as part of building the Redfern Health Centre so they can just put it in if they want to.

NSW Health should not repeat the needle bus blunder. There needs to be the community discussion it would have if a separate DA were required. Out of that there might be a less polarised community and greater understanding by both NSW Health and the community about this complex community health issue.

Geoff Turnbull Redfern

Source: The South Sydney Herald April 2012 –