Harm Reduction Day
Last week was Harm Reduction Day, a day that acknowledges the work being done to create and implement policies, programs and practices to minimise the harm caused by drug use.
Last month, Turning Point’s senior lived & living peer support worker Baden Hicks attended the Harm Reduction International Conference in Melbourne. Baden not only presented at the conference but also took along four of his clients. He spoke to us about their experiences at the event.
Strength in Solidarity
For the first time in 19 years the Harm Reduction International Conference returned to Melbourne.
Thousands of people from around the world involved in the harm reduction space attended, including Turning Point’s very own lived & living peer support worker, Baden Hicks.
The theme for this year's Harm Reduction International Conference was strength in solidarity, and according to Baden, you could really feel that when you arrived at the Melbourne Convention Centre.
“It was very emotional being there. Seeing so many people in attendance really brought about a sense of unity.”
First time taking clients
Baden attended the conference with four of his clients and a nurse. The first time someone has taken clients to the Harm Reduction event.
“I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from Harm Reduction Victoria as well as sponsorship from Turning Point to take along four clients and a nurse.”
Baden was supported by Turning Point Nurse, Temika, and Wellington House peer support worker, Jacky, throughout the conference to care for clients.
“The clients were amazing to take along, they were grateful for the opportunity and were an absolute pleasure to attend with. Temika and Jacky were also a great support.”
Three of the clients attended in person and one attended virtually. Over the course of the four days all four clients attended a variety of presentations and workshops.
“I also introduced my clients to a number of people who work in the AOD sector. They were really impressed with the client's knowledge about drug use and harm reduction,” Baden said.
Whilst some of Baden’s clients are already working in the AOD sector, others are looking to enter the field. Attending the conference was a real ‘eye-opening’ experience for all of them according to Baden.
“It made them feel a part of something, coming into a conference where everyone is on the same page. They said it has given them the motivation to either do more in the roles they have or get involved.”
Discussing systemic barriers living experience peer workers face
During the conference Baden presented alongside Liam Neale from Star Health and Brittney Chapman from Harm Reduction Victoria as part of the FUSE Network.
The three spoke about the systematic barriers living experience peer workers face which was a collective view from all the members of the FUSE network, the community of Harm Reduction Peer Support workers in Victoria.
All four of Baden’s clients attended his presentation, and they, along with others in attendance, praised the honesty and vulnerability the speakers displayed.
“A lot of people who came up to us afterwards said our presentation was the best they had heard at the conference, some even asked us to sign their programs.”
“It was an honour to present such a powerful presentation alongside Liam and Brittney.”
Still a long way to go
Although the conference was an overall positive experience for Baden, his clients, Temika and Jacky, there is still a lot more work to be done.
“Hearing how people who use drugs are imprisoned and denied access to basic health care and basic human rights was worrying.”
“It would have been great to see more politicians in attendance, not just at the closing ceremony. We need them to see that harm reduction actually works because they are the ones who have the power to introduce policies.”
"While the event was an empowering experience for everyone that attended, Australia still does have a long way to go with drug policy and harm reduction,” Baden said.