You Talk, We Die

(Trade paper)
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Heroin addiction and its tragic consequences are a key feature of the inner city. Residents often find people overdosed in dangerous locations, as a result of them having to hide their addiction from the authorities. Relentless emergency sirens evoke a war-zone scenario, while parents never know what drug-related human tragedies or dramas they or their children will encounter on the streets.

After years of country living, this was the inner-city reality that Judy Ryan unwittingly relocated to. While aware of the existence of heroin usage, the extent of the problem in her new neighbourhood was truly shocking. Judy channelled her country roots and tried to imagine how this health crisis would be treated in a country town. Would local people become blase about finding bodies in gardens? Would government officials avert their gaze? Would local police arrest people who were clearly unwell?

The resulting grassroots campaign that Judy launched faced immense resistance and prejudice. It took three coroners' reports, a private member's bill, a by-election, the involvement of a respected community health centre, and the police finally acknowledging that arresting their way out of the problem didn't work for a drug-injecting centre to be agreed to.

You Talk, We Die shows how an authentic local voice and an inclusive local campaign can change a government's approach to managing a crisis that impacts everyday lives.