Melbourne to get second safe-injecting room

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

8/06/2020 9:08:26 PM

The news follows a review of the city’s first facility, though questions remain as to the choice of a site near the busy Queen Victoria Market.

Queen Victoria Market
A location near Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market is the preferred site for the second injecting room. (Image: AAP)


Melbourne’s second safe-injecting room will be established near Queen Victoria Market. The Victorian Government has chosen Cohealth Central City on Victoria Street in the Melbourne CBD as the preferred site.
In a Friday 5 June press conference, Premier Daniel Andrews said the site is not yet finalised.
‘[Cohealth Central City] are very keen to potentially operate this service to provide care and support and safety to arguably one of the most vulnerable groups in our community,’ he said.
The news follows an independent review of the state’s first medically supervised injecting room in North Richmond.
The report – led by Professor Margaret Hamilton, an executive member of the Australian National Council on Drugs – recommends the initial two-year trial of the North Richmond facility, due to end on 29 June, be extended by three years and that a second facility be established.

The City of Melbourne recorded 51 heroin-related deaths between January 2015 and September 2019.
‘There is a need for us to do more to save lives and to change lives not just in North Richmond but, according to our expert panel, in the City of Melbourne as well,’ Premier Andrews said. ‘That’s why we as a government will bring a bill in to parliament to establish a second medically-supervised injecting room in Melbourne on Victoria Street.’

However, Melbourne’s lord mayor Sally Capp said she was not consulted about the location of the new facility and was only told a day before Premier Andrews made the annoucement. 

‘We haven’t been involved in any of the discussions to identify the preferred site,’ Cr Capp told ABC Radio Melbourne.

The Lord Mayor raised concerns over whether the proposed location is ‘the most appropriate site’.

‘It’s across the road from 600 traders and 2000 workers at Queen Victoria Market that operates from three in the morning when the fishmongers arrive, until the evening when people have packed down,’ Cr Capp said.
‘It’s our fastest-growing neighbourhood in terms of residents, and that includes a lot of international students.

‘This is a major decision. We know from the report and from the experience in the City of Yarra [which includes North Richmond] how important it is to be able to take the community along with you, how important it is to fundamentally not just identify, but address, the concerns that the community is going to have.

‘And that process, to our knowledge, has not happened. We’re pleased that it is going to happen and that’s what we're focused on now.’

The North Richmond facility has recorded approximately 119,000 visits, safely managed 3200 overdoses and saved at least 21 lives. (Image: AAP)
Since its 2018 establishment in North Richmond – an area long considered Australia’s heroin capital – the first facility has become the busiest medically-supervised injecting room in Australia. The new report found the facility had recorded approximately 119,000 visits, safely managed 3200 overdoses and saved at least 21 lives.
Facility supervisors have also referred people to 13,000 health and social support interventions for issues such as mental health, housing and family violence. Prior to the facility opening, a number of people had died from overdoses in nearby public spaces.

But that success represents something of double-edged sword for local residents, with many having raised concerns over issues such as reports of public drug use, trafficking and antisocial behaviour.
Yarra City Council Mayor Misha Coleman welcomed the State Government’s announcement of a second facility as an important next step in addressing drug harm and dependency in the community.
‘This is about saving lives and addressing a very real and long-term public health issue – we actually probably need five or six facilities across Melbourne – but [a] second one will make a huge difference,’ she said.
‘That support and life-saving work cannot be overstated.
‘Extending the trial for a further three years and the introduction of a second site in Melbourne will ensure we build on these positive outcomes and focus on a harm minimisation approach to this issue.’
It remains unclear whether the site will be opened on a trial basis or permanently.
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