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DUMA launch address

Speech Delivered at the launch of DUMA in Brisbane
Dr Adam Graycar, Director, Australian Institute of Criminology
8 December 1998

It gives me great pleasure today to be launching the Queensland site of the Drug Use Monitoring Australia Project, or DUMA as it is more commonly called. Queensland has the honour of being the first of the three intended DUMA sites to be launched in Australia.

During the last few years, the issue of illicit drugs and crime has been receiving increased media attention. And indeed, those who engage in illicit drug use and commit crimes have a greater impact on the quality of life of ordinary Australians than other groups of drug users, yet we know little about them.

Without an effective monitoring system, action and scarce resources cannot be effectively tailored to combat the problem. We need to understand both how many offenders are using illicit drugs and whether over time this use is increasing or decreasing.

This information needs to be sufficiently targeted and timely so that we know when a drug epidemic is occurring or subsiding. DUMA will provide this. The research study is targeted at those of high risk of involvement in illicit drug use, that is individuals who are brought into a watchhouse to be charged with a criminal offence, and it will provide information every 3 months over 3 years on these patterns of use.

This program has been run in the United States since the mid-1980s, and in the early 1990s, the British Home Office commissioned a pilot study similar to DUMA. The pilot was regarded as a success and the Home Office has indicated that it intends to implement the program on an ongoing basis. Using similar procedures to the US and the UK participation in the study is entirely voluntary and anonymous. As you can see from the papers in front of you data is presented only in aggregate form.

DUMA is affiliated with the International-Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program that includes countries like the US, England, Scotland, South Africa, and the Netherlands.

The Australian Institute of Criminology will initially pilot the project in three jurisdictions for a period of three years. As well as Queensland, these include New South Wales and Western Australia. The pilots are being run to determine if DUMA can be feasibly established given each jurisdictions' own unique problems and concerns as well as having different legal systems and operating procedures. Other pilot sites are also under consideration.

The specific aims of DUMA are therefore to:

  • collect and improve illicit drug prevalence data on offenders at selected sites
  • provide an early warning system for changes in patterns of illicit drug use so as to target health and law enforcement strategies to minimise the harm from illicit drug use
  • model the demand for treatment amongst this important group
  • establish a mechanism whereby local and national law enforcement and health agencies can evaluate policy initiatives.

I would like to acknowledge the support we have had from the Queensland Police Service in establishing this project. Projects of this importance don't happen without considerable support and hard work. Many sections of the QPS have worked together to establish this program including BCIQ and State Crime Operations Command. At the site level Assistant Commissioner Early and the staff in the QPS South Eastern Region have been constructive, innovative and forward thinking. The establishment of the program is a concrete example of the true commitment that QPS has to harm minimisation. I should also thank the Criminal Justice Commission for supporting the project and providing us with appropriate guidance in establishing the protocols and monitoring the implementation of the project.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the support of the Prime Minister's 'National Illicit Drug Strategy'. The funds to run this project have been provided under this initiative and the Australian Institute of Criminology is grateful for this support.

I now declare this DUMA site up and running. I am confident that it will contribute significantly to the success of the DUMA project as a whole and provide us with invaluable data to enable us to target intervention programs that will break the cycle of illicit drug use and crime.