Presenting author: Marianne Jauncey
Presenting author biography:
Dr Marianne Jauncey is a public health physician and Director of Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre - and has worked in harm reduction for 25 years.
Strength in Solidarity - Finding your tribe within the Harm Reduction sector
At its heart Harm Reduction is a movement, a way of being in the world that values human rights, justice, equity, dignity, wellbeing. We harm reduction practitioners are more than a random group of people who follow a set of collective policies about drug use. Harm reduction is part of our identity, and when we work with other like-minded practitioners, we feel we have found our tribe.
But at times within our harm reduction community, do we not find ourselves in opposition with each other? At times do we not exclude others that seek to join? Is not tribalism at times responsible for dividing us, distracting us from what really are shared goals?
Systemic structures such as healthcare systems, legislative frameworks, and governance often mean harm reduction practitioners compete for funding, for space, for media attention or political support. We may disagree about whether to embrace decriminalisation or advocate for regulated supply. We may disagree with whether any focus on treatment merely reinforces a medicalised view that suggests all drug use requires intervention when clearly it doesn't.
Yet for us to effectively progress our efforts within and beyond harm reduction, we need to collaboratively align tribes, to create a collective and cohesive narrative. Because we do share common goals –a respectful and empowering narrative around drugs and people who use them; drug law reform; an end to stigma and discrimination; a skilled workforce capable of delivering coordinated, non- judgemental care; high quality, effective and culturally appropriate treatment at low cost available when and where needed; an effective and supported peer-based workforce; an ended to preventable overdose deaths, and more.
This presentation will reflect on 25 years' experience as a public health specialist within the harm reduction community, talk about where division has occurred, and offer some personal lessons learnt.