Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research Seminars

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) invites you to hear the findings from our two latest research reports followed by refreshments.  
All are welcome to join us so please circulate this invitation among your networks.

Paper 1.         Do domestic violence offenders receive more lenient sentences than non-domestic violent offenders?
                Dr Neil Donnelly & Dr Suzanne Poynton, BOCSAR

Paper 2.         Does going to prison reduce the risk of further offending: The impact of an offenders first prison episode
                Dr Judy Trevena and Dr Don Weatherburn, BOCSAR

Date:                Friday 4 December 2015

Time:         10:00am to 11:30am

Location:        Room 029
                Building 02 (CB02)
                University of Technology
                Broadway Sydney

Map:                link to pdf map

Cost:                Free

RSVP:        by Monday 30 November
                to bocsar_seminars@agd.nsw.gov.au

Brain Science and Drug Use Seminar

What can brain science tell us about CBT? Some say nothing!

Find out how brain science can improve understanding of drug use and its treatment.


A/Prof Nicole Lee is one of Australia’s leaders in drug treatment. She is particularly known for her work in methamphetamine treatment and treatment of co-occurring mental health and drug problems.

She is a translational scientist drawing on broad research to improve treatment outcomes.

Nicole is National President of the AACBT as well as Director of The LeeJenn Group, Associate Professor at the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction and Adjunct Associate Professor at the National Drug Research Institute.

How Drugs Affect the Brain

Drugs affect the brain – that’s why people use them! But both short term and long term users can experience significant brain changes that affect cognition, mental health symptoms and their ability to engage in treatment.

Some of these changes can last 12-18 months post abstinence and relapse rates are between 50% and 80% as a result.

Nicole uses examples from methamphetamine (‘speed’ and ‘ice’) and other drug use, and gives us the non-neuroscientist version of how drugs affect the brain in the long and short term, how that translates to the way users present in treatment and changes that we need to make to ensure treatment is more effective for this group.

When Wednesday 9 December 2015, (registration from 6:30pm) 7:00 to 8:00pm

Venue Bat and Ball, 495 Cleveland Street, Redefine

To download the flyer, go to: http://www.atoda.org.au/wp-content/uploads/AACBT-Pub-Discussion-Nicole-Lee1.pdf

Multi-lingual resource: what is drug and alcohol treatment?

What is drug and alcohol treatment?

A new resource produced by the Drug and Alcohol Multicultural Education Centre explains different types of drug and alcohol treatment, how to access treatment services, support available for friends/family, plus other commonly asked questions in simple, non-medical language.

The resource can be downloaded from www.damec.org.au

2nd National Complex Needs Conference – Details

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) – in conjunction with the National Complex Needs Alliance (NCNA) – is holding the Second National Complex Needs Conference in Canberra on 17-18 November 2015.  This will be the second Australian conference to showcase successful programs/approaches in addressing complex needs – with the broader purpose of identifying what works and how.  Click here to register online.

Keynote speakers at the conference include:

  • Dr Tom Calma AO, National Coordinator, Tackling Indigenous Smoking; Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia

TOPIC: Justice Reinvestment – is it the policy solution for Australia’s Indigenous incarceration challenge?

  • Bernadette Mitcherson, Executive Director, ACT Corrective Services

TOPIC: Throughcare programs and initiatives for detainees with complex needs in the ACT

  • Kate Carnell AO, CEO, Chamber of Commerce and Industry

TOPIC: A hand up, not a hand out – how the business community can support disadvantaged Australians to re-enter the labour market

  • Kieran Palmer, Clinical Service Manager, Psychologist, Ted Noffs Foundation

TOPIC: Embracing the potential of youth: Integrated treatment approaches to improving outcomes and supporting greatness

  • Sue Miers AM, Chair, National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (NOFASD)

TOPIC: Comprehensive responses to the needs of children and families affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

  • Day 2 of the conference will also feature an Opening Address by Yvette Berry MLA, ACT Minister for Housing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Community Services, Multicultural Affairs, Women and Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Social Inclusion and Equality

TOPIC: ACT Government’s Human Services Blueprint and the related Strengthening Families and Local Services Network initiatives.

Among the other program highlights is the Political and Community Perspectives Panel – confirmed panellists include:

  • Kirsten Livermore, A/g Director, Health, Safety, Environment & Community Policy, Minerals Council of Australia and former Federal Member for Capricornia
  • Senator Deborah O’Neill, Chair, Senate Select Committee on Health
  • Dr John Falzon, Chief Executive Officer, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia
  • Julie Tongs OAM, Chief Executive Officer, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service

The Hypothetical Plenary Session: Great expectations – can we meet complex need effectively? – will be facilitated by Genevieve Jacobs, Presenter of Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs on 666 ABC Canberra.  Panellists will explore options for providing comprehensive assistance to a hypothetical family with complex needs.  Panellists include:

  • Sue Murray, Chief Executive Officer, Suicide Prevention Australia
  • Lyn Morgain, Chief Executive, cohealth
  • Camilla Rowland, Chief Executive Officer, Marymead
  • Professor Valsa Eappen, Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Tamara Stewart-Jones, Director, Multicultural Youth South Australia Inc.
  • Sharon Tuffin, Chief Executive Officer (Interim) Karralika Programs Inc.

Click here to view the full Provisional Program for the conference. 

NDARC PhD Scholarship Applications Open

Applications are now open for the NDARC PhD Scholarship starting in Semester 1, 2016

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) is offering at least one PhD scholarship to carry out innovative research on drug or alcohol related issues including, but not limited to, prevention activities or clinical interventions for substance use and disorders, epidemiology, health economics and drug policy research.

Please refer to https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/content/scholarships-ndarc for more details and information on how to apply.

Applications close on Wednesday 18 November.


ATCA Calls For More Ice Treatment Beds


The Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association (ATCA) has welcomed a recent statement by Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, Assistant Minister for Health, which noted results of the historic 2014 Victorian tri-partisan inquiry into the supply and use of methamphetamine, which includes the crystalised form of the drug, known more popularly as Ice.

As Senator Nash notes, “A recent review of 30 publications reporting on 16 studies found positive outcomes for therapeutic communities …including reduced substance use, and criminal involvement, increased rates of employment…residential rehabilitation is indeed an important part of a suite of evidence based treatments available.”

Therapeutic Communities (TCs) in Australia, in line with their counterparts internationally, have been successfully treating meth/amphetamine dependence for many years, and in the past 12 months have increasingly responded to the call for help from those who have become dependent on Ice.

Associate Professor Lynne Magor-Blatch, Executive Officer of the ATCA, said today, “Therapeutic Communities have been working effectively with complex clients and changing drug use presentations since they were first established in Australia more than 40 years ago.   Methamphetamine, and the use of Ice in particular, has resulted in a range of acute harms that have not been seen with other drug presentations.”

There are no pharmacological alternatives to treatment in the same way there is for opiate addiction.

The ATCA represents therapeutic communities working across Australia and New Zealand, and all have reported significant increases in numbers of people seeking help.

“All our members have had the opportunity to talk with members of the Ice Taskforce during the period of consultation, and have provided valuable information on the range of complex behaviours and psychological issues that they are dealing with on a daily basis.  People seeking residential treatment are not recreational users, they have complex mental health and behavioural issues and are generally those who have come into contact with the law or are involved in considerable personal and family disruption”.

While the association believes strongly in the need to provide a range of services across the treatment spectrum, the reported recommendation to support day treatment and outclient services at the expense of residential TC programs has raised concerns.

“It needs to be acknowledged that clients presenting for treatment for Ice addiction are generally polysubstance users who have been involved in substance misuse and abuse over a number of years.

They are also experiencing a range of health, interpersonal, social and mental health issues which have brought them to this point – and a “quick fix” will not solve this issue long term”, Dr Magor-Blatch added.

The association stresses that the treatment or recovery journey is often a long one, and that people will typically have a number of attempts at a variety of treatment-types before succeeding.  Substance use has similar relapse rates to other chronic conditions.

“Unfortunately we too often credit the last treatment attempt with being the successful one, without understanding that it is the culmination of treatments that have produced the successful outcome.  Social and psychological factors also play a huge role in this – as people mature and other aspects of their lives become more important, drugs may lose their appeal.  Perhaps it appears that the short-term two to four session intervention at the end has been the successful intervention – but it is likely that it has worked because of many previous attempts, including residential treatment.”

The Victorian Government has recently announced the investment of $18 million to expand drug treatment and rehabilitation services, but the majority of the funds are being poured into day programs, which are unlikely to assist those with the greatest need.  Meantime, Odyssey House in Victoria, one of the largest TCs in Australia, reports being inundated by the number of people who are desperately seeking help.

Odyssey House is one of the ATCA’s 43 members, and provides two therapeutic communities.  They can accommodate 100 people across their facilities.  Members of the ATCA provide 53 TC programs in Australia, working with adults, young people and families.  Six of the TCs accept parents with children, three are in custodial settings and three are youth-specific (from 14 years of age).  ATCA members provide residential services for more than 9,000 people annually, as well as over 20,000 people in outpatient support programs.  Recent research showed 63% of clients in treatment had a primary substance dependency on Ice, although this number increases to more than 80% for youth-specific programs.

“The picture provided by Odyssey House in Victoria is mirrored across Australia.  Our larger agencies such as Odyssey in New South Wales, the WHOS programs in New South Wales and Queensland, the Salvation Army Recovery Centres across the east coast, Cyrenian House in Perth, along with all our smaller agencies are experiencing a huge increase in demand, and without funding to increase bed numbers, people will be unable to get the help they need.  This pushes people in two directions – either to look for help in the private sector or overseas, or to continue to use the drugs that are destroying their lives and the communities around them.”

Often those who are unable to secure a place in government or non-government residential service and do not have private health insurance, are forced to self-fund their own treatment.  More often than not this places a huge burden on working families to come up with considerable funds – sometimes $20,000 – $30,000 to secure a safe treatment place for their loved one. More must be done to assist not only the users but to relieve the financial burden on families poorly equipped to cope with this financial burden.

The ATCA is concerned that the Ice Taskforce will also step back from a commitment to residential services and emphasizes the need to provide funds to help those most in need.  This does not negate the need for education and early intervention and short-term interventions, but more fully supports a comprehensive approach to the drug problem.

“There has been a huge emphasis on the violence and aggressive behaviours which we often see associated with this drug.  Our member services in New Zealand have been working with methamphetamine users for a long time, and the coordinated approach we have seen there between health and justice is one from which we can learn”.

A key message here, is the need to build infrastructure, increase bed numbers in residential services as well as other community-based responses, so that they can take referrals from and work together with the justice system to provide a managed and synchronized response.

Heroin dependence treatment information: new resource

New NDARC resource provides heroin dependence treatment information

Researchers at NDARC have developed a new information kit that provides a step by step guide to the evidence for medically assisted treatment for heroin dependence as well as answering commonly asked questions.

Heroin or opioid dependence can be treated with medication and psychosocial support, also known as medication-assisted treatment of opioid dependence (MATOD). The most common medicines used for MATOD in Australia are methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone.

This Information Kit includes two booklets. The first booklet answers some of the most frequently asked questions about MATOD and addresses common misunderstandings, while the second booklet provides a review of evidence of MATOD.

The booklets can be downloaded from the NDARC website at the links below:

MATOD – Your questions answered: https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/resource/medication-assisted-treatment-opioid-dependence-your-questions-answered

MATOD – A review of the evidencehttps://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/resource/medication-assisted-treatment-opioid-dependence-review-evidence

2015 National Cannabis Conference – Regos Close Tomorrow

2015 National Cannabis Conference



You are invited to attend the 2015 National Cannabis Conference in Melbourne on 7 to 9 October.

The conference includes a one-day workshop, and two days of international and local speakers such as:

  • Professor Marilyn Huestis (Chief, Chemistry and Drug Metabolism, NIDA)
  • Professor Kevin Sabet (former adviser to three US presidential administrators)
  • Professor Jose Crippa (CBD expert)
  • Professor Nadia Solowij
  • Professor Olaf Drummer
  • Dr Matthew Large
  • Professor Murat Yucel
  • Professor David Penington
  • Mr Bob Hopkins (founder of Nimbin’s Hemp Embassy)
  • Professor Jan Copeland


The event will include the latest research on emerging areas, and papers on various perspectives of cannabis legalisation policy.


Registration closes strictly at COB on Friday 2 October, so book now to secure your place. 


To view the full program, click here.
To see speaker profiles, click here.

Victoria Legalises Medical Marijuana

In an Australian first, the Victorian Government announced yesterday it would legalise marijuana for the treatment of medical conditions including cancer, chronic pain and epilepsy. The decision is based upon a report by the Victorian Law Reform Commission which recommended licensing cultivators and manufacturers to develop a range of products, including oils and sprays, to be sold in pharmacies. However the trial hinges on support from the Federal Government who are signatory to an international convention on narcotic drugs.

Dr Liz Temple is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Federation University Australia, Victoria:

 “From a research perspective, there is much that we still don’t know about cannabis, its medicinal properties or therapeutic efficacy. This lack of knowledge will affect many aspects of the implementation, running and effectiveness of the medicinal cannabis scheme.

In particular, the available research evidence can’t yet tell us definitively which cannabis strains, cannabinoid profiles and doses, or administration methods will work best for which medical conditions or how this may differ for individual patients.

This means that the desired quick start to the scheme will inevitably include some trial and error, as prescribing doctors and their patients learn together what works best for the specific medical condition and individual circumstances.

Building the evidence base is essential, and it will take time. As such, there is an urgent need for research funding, and not just for the clinical trials that have been discussed so far, but also for basic and applied cannabis research.”


Dr Michael Farrell is Director of the National Drug and Alcoholic Research Centre:

“The report on which the Victorian Government’s decision was based was very well crafted and detailed presenting a balanced view of current research evidence and presents options for moving forward and for improving access to treatment.

However if medical use is likely to be long term, patients should be advised that the adverse effects of long term use are unclear.

Patients could also be advised of the adverse effects reported in long term recreational users, such as the development of dependence.

Many doctors will be faced with patients using cannabis for complex symptoms of multiple chronic disabling conditions for which there are limited treatment options. Doctors should discuss, in a dispassionate and non-judgmental and supportive manner, the advisability or otherwise of using cannabis to palliate such symptoms.

There is no clear evidence for effectiveness in treating pain, any benefits are likely to be modest, and there is no clear evidence that putative benefits outweigh possible harms. When symptoms of cannabis dependence are elicited it is appropriate to discuss the wisdom of continued use in the context of the illness and the prognosis, and, if appropriate, to offer the

patient support for withdrawal. Helping patients who wish to use cannabis for symptomatic relief to live as comfortably and productively as possible is an important and valuable goal of palliative and rehabilitation treatment.”

Dr Matthew Large is from the School of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales:

“While the therapeutic halo around cannabis gets ever bigger and brighter, particularly in the minds of politicians – the actual evidence for therapeutic potential is weak. Meanwhile the real and very well established risks with regard to mental health seem to be forgotten. If cannabis is to be made more available it needs to be with health warnings and better public heath messages.”

UNHRC reccomends decriminalisation of possesion and use of all drugs

The excellent summary below is via Paul D:

The Human Rights Council recently requested that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights prepare a study, in consultation with States, United Nations agencies and other relevant stakeholders, to be presented to the Council at its thirtieth session, on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights, including recommendations on respect for, and the protection and promotion of, universal human rights.

In the resulting report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended the decriminalisation of possession and use of all drugs, and noted that the “War on Drugs” model increases the incidence of drug-related harm, represses the human rights of marginalised groups throughout the world, and forms a significant barrier to the goals of equal access to health care and the right to health.

The report will inform UNHRC’s contribution to the upcoming UN general Assembly Special Session on drug (UNGASS).

The call for decriminalisation is just one of a number of key recommendations which are aimed to protect the right to health and the rights of children, women, prisoners, indigenous populations and other marginalised groups.

“In its resolution 69/201, the General Assembly reaffirmed that the world drug problem must be countered in full conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and with full respect for all human rights. By its resolution 51/12, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs called for the promotion of human rights in implementing international drug control treaties, and the International Narcotics Control Board has stated that human rights must be taken into account when interpreting international drug control treaties. The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health has argued that when the international drug control regime and international human rights law conflict, human rights obligations should prevail (see A/65/255, para. 10)”…

 …“28.   WHO has recommended decriminalizing drug use, including injecting drug use, as doing so could play a critical role in the implementation of its recommendations on health sector interventions, including harm reduction and the treatment and care of people who use drugs.  UNAIDS too has recommended decriminalizing drug use as a means to reduce the number of HIV infections and to treat AIDS.

  1. The Special Rapporteur has identified many ways in which criminalizing drug use and possession impedes the achievement of the right to health. He has called for the decriminalization of drug use and possession as an important step towards fulfilling the right to health. He has noted that decriminalizing drug use cannot be equated with legalizing it. Decriminalization means that drug use and possession remain legally prohibited but that criminal penalties, if they are applied at all, are minor and of a non-custodial nature. Legalization, by contrast, involves no prohibition of the relevant conduct (see A/65/255, para. 62).
  1. The Special Rapporteur has noted as positive the decriminalization experience in Portugal (see A/65/255, para. 64). In 2001, all drugs for personal use were decriminalized and drug use was characterized as an administrative offence. This was combined with an increased public health and social response to assist drug users. Portugal has not witnessed a material increase in drug use; in fact, indicators for certain groups show a decrease. Positive effects have included the destigmatization of drug users and the unburdening of the criminal justice system.  The International Narcotics Control Board has indicated that the move to decriminalize drug use in Portugal was consistent with the 1988 Convention.  In total, 22 States have adopted decriminalization measures of one kind or another, although not always on the grounds of promoting public health.  The Special Rapporteur has indicated that decriminalization should be accompanied by an expansion in drug treatment programmes and drug education (see A/65/255, para. 67). On 26 June 2015, on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Secretary-General stated that consideration should be given to alternatives to criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs and that there should be an increased focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care, as well as on economic, social and cultural strategies. Decriminalization has been called for by a number of civil society organizations on the grounds that criminalization poses a major obstacle to public health responses to drug users and their right to health…” 

Follow the link, and then scroll down to A/HRC/30/65 to download the entire report;