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Powerful film steps courageously into drug reform debate

This article is sponsored by Uniting, the Board of the NSW and ACT Synod of the Uniting Church responsible for the work of community services, chaplaincy and social justice advocacy.

PADDINGTON: Our community’s concern for a better way on drugs was well demonstrated in Sydney on June 13 – when Uniting launched its powerful documentary film, Half a Million Steps. The film traces the journey of a hundred people on a “Long Walk to Treatment” in 2018 – carrying a message from the Uniting Church Moderator almost 400 kilometres from Dubbo to NSW Parliament in Sydney, calling for more accessible drug treatment.

At the premiere, at the Palace Chauvel Cinema Paddington, many of the walkers joined the Moderator, the Rev. Simon Hansford, and representatives of more than 60 partner organisations in the Fair Treatment campaign – drug treatment professionals, other health and medical professionals, legal and enforcement experts, people who use drugs, their families and communities.

All have urged the NSW and ACT governments to provide more support for treatment, and to end criminal penalties for personal drug use.

Speaking before the showing, Mr Hansford said: “Every human being has inherent value, has equal worth … that’s why I support the Fair Treatment campaign and its goals: a compassionate health response to problematic drug use, not a criminal justice response.

“Every human being deserves that – no matter whether they come from Sydney’s leafy north shore or the east-side of Dubbo or sleeping rough in Kings Cross.”

Featured in the film, and at the screening, were participants in the Long Walk – including people with expert and personal experience of the issue. Many told of long waiting periods for suitable treatment – and people dying before they could be treated.

Says Mick Palmer AO APM, former Federal Police Commissioner in the film: “We can’t arrest our way out of this problem. We continue to deny the evidence. We’ve never spent anywhere near enough money on treatment.”

And former NSW Chief Prosecutor Nicholas Cowdery AM QC agrees: “If someone close to me was caught up with drug use, the last place I’d want to see them is in a court of law.”

The film is narrated by Dr Marianne Jauncey, Medical Director of the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre at Kings Cross.

She told the gathering at the premiere how 26 other countries have improved treatment and reformed laws on personal drug use – saving lives and improving health and social outcomes.

Half a Million Steps has screened in Sydney and Dubbo. Further screenings will be at Dendy Newtown on July 3 and 12 – go to for details and tickets.

To learn how to host a community screening, go to where you can also view a trailer and the full list of partner organisations. More information: Stafford Sanders at

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