ABC The Drum tonight discussed drug use around the world. One of the rare times that enlightened professionals marshal enough public support was when we began a needle exchange program, and a safe injecting environment.
The expert on tonight’s show said that the over-riding concern of the program was pragmatic: to keep people alive. She said that this program, or what is left of it, is world-renowned, and the Australian rate of HIV infection among drug users is the lowest in the world.
I remember the hysteria among the professional opinion makers in the media at the time the program was implemented. I was also living in Kings Cross, where the injection centre was to be located, the red light district.
Daily, I would walk through its streets to the rail station to travel to my railway job where the butchest guys would say to me: “I don’t know how you can live there; I would never have the courage to visit the suburb”. I didn’t perform a Jungian function in asking these guys what their pre-conceptions were. Instead, I told them that in the streets surrounding Kings Cross were 3 senior citizen villages; at any time during the day you could find very fragile people tottering to & from the supermarket, barely conscious, but also never attacked.
I myself was only attacked twice during my 20 year residence in KC; once, on the eve of the rugby league final a group of guys approached me outside my apartment building, one of them was aggressive in tone & before I could modify the interpersonal dynamics he’d punched me on the nose. I fled back into my 30’s concrete, art deco building, leaving a trail of blood up the stairs to my door, horrifying my lovely next door neighbour who commiserated with me. Another time, I was harassed on the main street by a guy while I was extracting money from the hole in the wall. The street ambiance that encouraged this anarchy was a spate of knife attacks that were happening locally; people were giving each other horribly suspicious looks as they scurried away from the train.
In the middle of the Cross was the police station, recently built partly underground; the adjacent car park was also underground & topped with a green park. This was where the local junkies congregated to shoot up. At the time I would practise my 7 cycle Tai Chi; the group became fascinated by my oriental ballet, they would gather round & applaud. As Nina Hagen sings in her hit Smack Jack, “junkies are so sentimental”.