A powerful call to decolonise harm reduction

20 April 2023

Director of UQ’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health Professor James Ward outlined wide-ranging benefits that would flow from decolonising harm reduction at the Harm Reduction International conference.

An abstract from Professor Ward's presentation is below. It is published in full in a Croakey Health Media article

Colonialism harms

Beyond Australia, contemporary substance use among Indigenous peoples today is inextricably linked to colonialism, both in the ways land was acquired and in relation to the disruption and trauma that came with colonisation, including the ongoing intergenerational trauma experienced by the younger generations of Indigenous peoples today.

It is apt, at a harm reduction conference, to point out that psychoactive substances such as opium, tobacco alcohol and cocaine were used by colonial powers to achieve their goals of dispossession of lands and peoples. These same commodities ensured the colonial experiment could expand to more lands, and to continue to ignore, displace, disrupt, and massacre Indigenous peoples.

At the same time, the introduction of drugs and substances, to Indigenous peoples has had devastating impacts on our peoples globally.

The most common feature of the modern day response to the weaponising of alcohol and other drugs against Indigenous peoples has been to double down on law enforcement and control.

This has occurred globally through the war on drugs. Individual countries, including Australia, have attempted to legislate and arrest their way out of substance abuse harms.

The result?

Read the article