An international indigenous network for drug law reform was launched yesterday at the international indigenous conference, Healing Our Spirit Worldwide – The Eighth Gathering, in Sydney, Australia.

The International Indigenous Drug Policy Network has been established by the Aboriginal Drug & Alcohol Council (SA), the New Zealand Drug Foundation and the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation of Canada to ensure the world’s indigenous peoples have a voice on international issues associated with alcohol and drugs.

“As the global push to end the war on drugs and treat substance abuse as a health issue gains momentum, it’s never been more important that indigenous communities are at the forefront of the discussion on drug law reform,” said the NZ Drug Foundation’s Māori Advocacy Advisor, Jack McDonald.

“Māori we know that punishing rather than supporting people with substance abuse issues is causing excessive harm in our communities – our people make up 43% of convictions and 58% of imprisonments due to drug related offences.

“The disproportionate impact of current punitive drug laws and enforcement is influenced by the institutional racism that all indigenous communities consistently face,” said Mr McDonald.

“The UN General Assembly held a Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in April 2016 in New York, but the outcomes document is largely silent on the challenges facing indigenous communities,” said Aboriginal Drug & Alcohol Council (SA) Director Scott Wilson.

“As we look towards the UN’s next drug policy summit in 2019, we will be approaching other indigenous organisations and First Nations to consolidate a representative international indigenous group and lobby to reduce harms to indigenous communities from substance abuse and discriminatory drug laws,” Mr Wilson said.