Injecting drug use and associated harms among Aboriginal Australians


A brief by the Australian National Council on Drugs in 2008 noted that alcohol is the primary drug of concern for indigenous Australians. A small number of Aboriginal people inject drugs, but were a significant, subpopulation that was particularly vulnerable for a range of largely unidentified and poorly documented reasons. The harms of injecting drugs for Aboriginal Australians were not reliably reported, in part due to weaknesses in data collection. The brief also noted that the ANCD was specifically interested in a project to obtain ‘an understanding of the dimensions and characteristics of Indigenous injecting drug use and its associated harms, including gaps in knowledge, and whether there are specific issues that exist for Indigenous people’. Providing choice and improving options for individuals must be the ultimate goals in a functioning health system. Barriers to choice and options for access to health services can increase dependence on a person’s level of disadvantage and vulnerability. The findings of this project support this premise and outline a range of issues that impact on the ability of Aboriginal people who inject drugs to access quality and timely prevention, treatment and harm reduction services, when and where they need them. These issues are in part structural, through policy and funding mechanisms, but are also embedded in practice. This report highlights the need for greater investment in prevention, treatment and harm reduction so those most disadvantaged in our community are not further disadvantaged by an ineffective system. Action is required in a structured and detailed approach to planning and delivering services that encompasses the complexity inherent among Aboriginal people who inject drugs, but is practical enough to make a difference.

Copyright Information

© Australian National Council on Drugs 2011 This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of the publisher. Published by the Australian National Council on Drugs PO Box 205, Civic Square ACT 2608 Telephone: 02 6166 9600 Fax: 02 6162 2611 Email: Website: