Long Walk for Treatment ends this Friday 2 November

This Friday 2nd November ends the Long Walk for Treatment organised by Uniting which began in Dubbo on 19th October and will end in Sydney at St Stephens Church, Macquarie St, opposite Parliament House.

Along the way signatures have been gathered and you have the opportunity of adding your name by visiting http://www.fairtreatment.org/walk/

If you haven’t already done so please take this opportunity to add your signature. It only takes a second or two. (You need to use your mouse to write your signature).

If you are able you may like to join the hundred people who have walked from Dubbo this Friday 2nd November at St Stephens Uniting Church to show your support and hear from people who have been affected by drug policy. The Uniting Church Moderator will then be walking across the road to NSW Parliament to hand the Long Walk to Treatment baton over for the final time.

Make your mark today, and draw the line on drug policy at www.fairtreatment.org/walk.

There are 11 spots left for the Microsites Training!

Round 2 of the Microsites Training for Congregations will be on this Thursday!!

This is training for congregations in how to have and maintain a website as part of the Synod website services. All Congregations are invited to participate and learn about the benefits of the microsites and how easy they are to use.

When: Thurs 1 November, 9:30am – 3:30pm
Where: TBC, Canberra
What to Bring: Your own laptop or Church laptop AND LUNCH!!
Morning tea will be provided but not lunch.

To get a spot you must register at: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/canberra-region-presbytery-microsites-training-registration-51691795552

Training will also be run on the Coast before the end of the year. Country congregations are encouraged to attend a session in Canberra or on the coast as is your closest point.

The Microsite Project: Building online communities

We live in a connected world, where people are accessing much of their information online — all the time.

Communications and Marketing are building an online community for Congregations and Presbyteries who would like to be part of a network of information that is updated daily for the benefit of the whole Synod.

We would also like to assist Congregations and Presbyteries in identifying how your missional goals are assisted through digital ministry, which includes a website and social media assistance.

The Microsite Project is a project designed to cater to smaller Congregations that would like to have a web presence, but do not know where to start.

Congregational involvement in the project links your easy-to-use microsite to a network of information that keeps you informed and up-to-date with all the latest news and information from across the Synod.

You can view the template for the Microsite here.


This week is Spiritual Care Week – 21-27 October 2018

Spiritual Care Week is an opportunity to elicit and celebrate peoples’ sense of identity as they find meaning in belonging to a common humanity and particular cultures. The idea of sharing our preciousness as human beings has found its source in religious, philosophical and societal communities.

Spiritual Care Week was once called Pastoral Care Week but recently has changed its name to recognise that spiritual care is so much more than religion. The COMISS Network: The Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings has hosted this week of celebration since October 1985. It is now being adapted and adopted across the world.

Celebrating Spiritual Care Week provides an opportunity for everyone to recognise what they do to contribute and listen to others, especially allowing Chaplains and Pastoral Practitioners to share their story and to celebrate their services.

Each year a new theme brings to the light a certain aspect of spiritual care as a focus. A new theme invites us to new and creative ways to tell the story of spiritual care.

This year’s theme

The theme for Spiritual Care Week in 2018 is “Hospitality- cultivating time”.The COMISS Network described the reason behind the theme:

“Cultivating and nurturing time is a challenge in an age of instantaneous communication and multiple sources of connection. Human presence flows back and forth – it takes time for mutuality and trust to develop. Cultivating time conveys to the recipient a treasuring of them as a person no matter what they are going through. We hope that this year you might appreciate even more the time taken in spiritual care which conveys preciousness and healing at every stage of life.”

Get Involved

There are many ways individuals and congregations might get involved. Resources are available at https://www.spiritualcareweek.org/


Long Walk to Treatment

Friday was the first day of the Long Walk to Treatment – a 500,000 step journey from Dubbo to Sydney to raise awareness of the lack of treatment facilities for people with drug and alcohol addiction, particularly in rural areas of NSW and the ACT.

The walk was inspired by Shantell Irwin who has a problem with methamphetamine. She desperately wants treatment but the nearest suitable, long-term treatment centre is in Sydney which is 400 kms from her home town of Dubbo.

The walk was launched by Simon Hansford, Moderator of the Uniting Church, Synod of NSW and the ACT, and Marianne Jauncey, Medical Director of Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. It will involve up to 100 people walking and carrying a baton which contains a letter to political leaders in NSW calling for increased funding for treatment, and for a special summit to rethink drug policy.

While we can’t all walk in support of this cause, we can all support the Fair Treatment campaign by adding our names to draw the line on drug policy, and share with our networks on social media.

I would encourage everyone to show your support for Fair Treatment, simply go to http://www.fairtreatment.org/walk/#line_sect


Tracey Burton
Executive Director NSW.ACT


#FairTreatmentAU Launch

Our very own Marion McConnell starred at the launch last Friday morning of the drug policy reform campaign of the Uniting Church of the New South Wales and ACT Synod  – https://nswact.uca.org.au/social-justice/the-social-justice-forum/drug-law-reform-campaign/.

Sir Richard Branson did the honours. The launch took the form of a moderated discussion between Branson, Dr Marianne Jauncey, the medical director of Uniting’s King’s Cross medically supervised injecting room and a third person, Dr Khalid Testi, the Executive Secretary of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/). In the course of it, three beautifully produced videos were shown of the stories of each of Marion, Liz and Shantall . Please make the time to look at the Facebook link which includes those videos at https://www.facebook.com/fairtreatmentau/videos/330197397753983

A man speaking with a microphone

The entire video takes about 1 1/4 hours but the videos of each of the three stars including our Marion, are between just five and 10 minutes each. The Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford, also spoke. To my mind it was a proud moment for the Uniting Church. It has dared to make a stand in the public square to right a long standing wrong. It is a bold step that has caught the public imagination. Moreover the launch demonstrated that it is conducting the  campaign in an impressive and professional way.

The other two videos shown at the launch were of Liz and Shantall. Liz had left home as a teenager and lived years on the street before her life was turned around after she got into contact with Uniting’s medically supervised injecting room in King’s Cross. Shantall is still struggling to exist with her kids and drug dependence in drought afflicted Dubbo where she lives, without a car, 400 km from the closest treatment service.

The testimony of Liz, Shantall & Marion and the comments of Marianne Jauncey provide a rock solid justification for the logo adopted for the campaign: #FairTreatmentAU. These two words encompass what the campaign is about.

They speak to the fact that:

*  There are only half the number of treatment places available as are needed. I suspect that the shortfall is probably even worse than that.

*  There is an almost total absence of treatment and support outside the capital cities and other large centres.

* Overstretched treatment services may require those seeking treatment to wait indefinitely (this in spite of the known fact that if the opportunity is not available for someone wrestling with addiction to secure help when they are prepared to avail themselves of it, the opportunity is likely to be lost).

* The vital need to remove the criminal law from the equation. As Richard Branson said, the criminalisation of drug use and possession interrupts treatment. It may get you into prison but that experience only makes it more likely that you will relapse.

*  Access to treatment is a question of justice, of the human rights that we all should enjoy to have access to the best available health services.

The focus on fair treatment is a very clever way to get the broader community behind drug law reform. There has been some reluctance to pin our sails to the treatment mast on the ground that treatment is only incidental to the main objective of securing drug law reform because treatment alone does not address the question of justice.

Adding fair to the call for treatment does bring in this other aspect. Everyone can get behind the need for treatment and of course access to that treatment needs to be fair.

We all now have a job to do to promote the logo #FairTreatmentAU among all our contacts, our Facebook friends and Twitter followers and at our kitchen table conversations. We want the call to resonate around the nation just as it resonated in Sydney Town Hall and will resonate in scores of country towns through which campaigners will take the Long Walk to Treatment from Dubbo to Parliament House in Sydney to demand fair treatment.

When you listen to the video, you will hear Richard Branson being asked his reaction to Marion’s call for getting the criminal law off the back of drug users. He replied that there are many countries now that have done that or are planning to do that and went on to talk about Portugal.:

The facts are when you look at countries that have done that they have got on top of the problem. I’ll give one example. Portugal in the year 2000 had a horrendous heroin problem and a very brave president went on television and said if you take heroin you will not be criminalised, and the state is here to help you, you can come forward and you will be able to inject safely and you can be supervised like you’re doing here and when you’re ready to go to a clinic we’ll arrange for you to go to a clinic and within three or four years it’d become a non-event in Portugal. People who had been on heroin had been weaned off. They were useful members of society again. If it can work in Portugal it could work in pretty well every country in the world.

The issues raised at the Fair Treatment launch will be front and centre of the annual remembrance ceremony of Families & Friends for Drug Law Reform  at our Memorial in Weston Park in Canberra on Monday 29 October at which Attorney General, Gordon Ramsay, and Caitlin Scott, Chaplain with Uniting Resilient Families and Communities will speak.

The campaign is timely. A perfect storm is brewing unless politicians summon the intestinal fortitude to tackle this problem:

* Deaths from drug overdoses and suicides of depressed dependent drug users after years of struggle to overcome their addiction are now skyrocketing to levels not seen since those awful days when Families and Friends got going in the 1990s;

* Deaths from overdose alone are now higher than the road toll;

* Large quantities of heroin are flowing back into the country or accessible through medically prescribed opiates;

* Many people are becoming addicted to opiate pain management medications; and

* Exceptionally dangerous fentanyl is turning up in laced pills consumed at dance parties.

In short, the very skilful promoters of the Uniting initiative have developed an unprecedented momentum in support of removing criminal sanctions from the back of drug users.

I’d like to think that we can now all get behind #FairTreatmentAU!

Bill Bush
St Ninian’s UC
Presbytery Social Justice Group
Family & Friends for Drug Law Reform