The Fifth Estate
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Public Health and Drug Policy Today
In the 1980s, Australia was an early adopter of free needle syringe distribution programmes. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, this controversial harm-reduction strategy played a crucial role in mitigating the spread of HIV among Australian injecting drug-users.
Despite our history of success with harm-reduction approaches, legislators – and large portions of the public – remain squeamish about these policies. Across Australia, parliaments are still more inclined to pass punitive anti-drug laws. But is this working, and is this even cost-effective, in the context of our spreading problems with ice?
Richard Di Natale and Fiona Patten both worked, in differing capacities, in public health prior to their careers in politics. Both have been vocal and active with regards to drug legislation since entering parliament. With Sally Warhaft, the pair discuss the possibilities and limitations of harm reduction in Australia.
Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians' lives in the fog of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.
Sally is a regular host and commentator on ABC radio and has a PhD in anthropology. She did her fieldwork in Mumbai, India, living by the seashore with the local fishing community.
Dr Richard Di Natale is the leader of the Australian Greens. He was elected to the federal parliament in 2010 and re-elected in 2016. He was the first Greens’ first Victorian Senator. His portfolios include health, multiculturalism and sport.
In November 2014, Fiona was elected a Member of the Victorian Legislative Council for the Northern Metropolitan region. She is one of a number of cross-benchers who hold the balance of power in Victoria’s Upper House. Fiona is the founder and leader of REASON, a future-focused, evidence-based movement committed to delivering equality, sustainability and freedom through new methods of political engagement and pragmatic consultation.
The Fifth Estate
The important stories of the day – off the front pages.
Sally Warhaft hosts a dizzying array of guests from the worlds of politics, culture, international relations and beyond, in a witty and revealing analysis of current affairs.