“People are dying in our streets”: Local group backs CBD injecting room
Pro-injecting room group launch “Keep Our City Alive” campaign ahead of a crucial upcoming decision by the state government.
A campaign urging the Victorian Government to open a CBD injecting room has been launched by a group of local residents, business owners and workers.
With a government decision on the location of Melbourne’s second medically supervised injecting facility imminent, a campaign to “Keep Our City Alive” (KOCA) was set in motion by a group of both CBD locals and family members of people who have lost loved ones.
The group is pushing for a CBD injecting service with “wraparound care”, and wanted to challenge the assumption that most locals were against the move.
“For too long we’ve had other people speaking on our behalf, and we want our voices to be heard,” KOCA spokesperson and CBD resident Chris Lamb said.
We are saying ‘yes, we need this life-saving service to be opened in the city, and we need it urgently. We love this city, and we love living here, but people are dying in our streets and we can’t sit by and do nothing.
The group launched its campaign on May 21 in Flinders Lane, near the Yooralla building at 244 Flinders St which was reportedly the government’s preferred location for a new injecting facility.
A period of community consultation on the injecting room concluded on May 16 and, following a review, former police commissioner Ken Lay — who has been tasked with leading the rollout since 2020 — was set to table a “final report” to the Minister for Mental Health by the end of May.
The Government has not indicated when it will then officially announce the site.
The KOCA group is in favour of a new safe injecting facility as part of a “comprehensive” CBD health service that also offered health care, homelessness and social support.
It pointed to Coroner’s Court of Victoria data (from June 2020 to June 2022) that showed the City of Melbourne had more heroin overdose deaths than any other local government area as further proof that a new injecting room was needed.
They also sought to remove politics from the vexed debate.
“It’s about children and our loved ones being protected and having a safe place to go where they’re not judged,” Collins St resident Jill Mellon-Robertson said.
However, in a Facebook post Residents 3000 president Rafael Camillo expressed disappointment that neither he nor the group were invited to the campaign launch, and questioned whether those involved in the campaign were local residents.
“I would appreciate if people that reside outside of the CBD would respect their local residents’ opinion (in favour or against it) and refrain from voicing only one-sided argument in favour of an injection room in circumstances where they do not reside in the CBD,” he said.
This is a very delicate and sensitive topic and I think the local residents and business owners should be paramount final decision makers on this topic.
Australia has just two supervised injecting facilities; in Sydney’s Kings Cross (opened in 2001) and in North Richmond (in 2018).
They are designed to benefit vulnerable and marginalised people who inject drugs and are particularly aimed at people who inject drugs in public settings. •
Caption (main image): L-R: Dr Erin Lalor, and CBD residents Jill Mellon-Robertson, Daniel Daly and Chris Lamb. Photos: Maria Vasileva.