printer-outline Printer friendly version
ID: HR23-52
Presenting author: Emma Maiden

Presenting author biography:

General Manager Advocacy & External Relations at Uniting NSW.ACT, co-managing the Social Impact & Advocacy Directorate. Emma’s responsibilities include social justice campaigning, government relations, media, social media and philanthropy, including the Fair Treatment campaign to remove criminal penalties for the possession of drugs for personal use and increasing healthcare.

Not the usual suspects: How we can re-energise the cause for drug law reform and win

Emma Maiden
NSW led the world 20 years ago introducing a safe injecting facility in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Since then, drug law reform has been slow to non-existent despite supportive academic, coroner and parliamentary reports and the efforts of many great people dedicating their lives to the cause. In 2016 when the Uniting Church (NSW & ACT Synod) joined them, it was unexpected and welcome. Uniting’s role running the injecting centre in Kings Cross gave it legitimacy with the AOD sector and it’s faith foundation helped open doors and minds. Since the launch of the Fair Treatment campaign in 2018, Uniting has been bringing it’s ‘not the usual suspects’ faith voice and an expert team of social justice campaigners to fight for change. We have also recruited other ‘not the usual suspects’ to be campaign partners (over 65 partners now). Uniting has taken strategic campaigning theory and applied it to drug law reform, together with dedicated staff and funding. The result: a strategic approach to winning change. Tactics have included a feature-length documentary, animations on the current laws and why they should change, engagement with Government Ministers and MPs in local church congregations, engagement with traditionally conservative organisations like the Country Women’s Association, NSW Farmers Federation and Rotary, banners outside churches, interfaith prayer services, multiple events, engagement with local communities (including First Nations communities) around the need for funding of treatment services, supportive media articles, independent polling of community attitudes, billboards, training keyboard warriors, message testing and much more. We still haven’t won but we are closer than we have ever been. Winning change sometimes happens easily. We know that won’t be the case for DLR. We need strategy and resources and a little bit of faith.