Angry parents say injecting room is ‘not fair on our kids’
Parents say their children have seen “things no kids should see” as they walk to their Richmond primary school past the supervised injecting centre next door.
Tension in the community has escalated in recent weeks after the discovery of a body outside the school and the arrest of a man who trespassed on school grounds allegedly armed with a knife.
Wednesday evening’s meeting was packed.Credit:Meredith o’Shea
A group of more than a hundred residents and anxious parents from West Richmond Primary School met at the All Nations Hotel in Richmond on Wednesday evening. Organisers asked people in the room to raise their hand if their child had found a needle in school grounds. About half of them did.
Parent Josie Carberry said the events of the past two weeks had left parents “horrified, but not surprised”.
“My kids, like other kids, have seen things that no kids should see,” she said.
“It wasn’t just me that was watching – there were little eyes and little ears. My parental instincts told me this was doing damage to my kids.
Inside the injecting centre.Credit:Eddie Jim
“We didn’t send out kids to school to learn about knuckledusters and flick knives.”
An organiser of the school’s concerned parent’s group, Jo Murray, said the problem has grown since the injecting room has been established.
“It does support a very vulnerable part of the community and they do need it but don’t put it next to our kid’s school,” she said.
“Our 10-year-old son can walk down the street saying ‘that one’s taken ice, that one’s taken heroin because he’s sleepy, that one’s got his shirt off because he’s hot because he’s taken ice’,” she said.
“It’s not fair on our little kids who are living this.”
A few attendees booed a video of Health Minister Martin Foley addressing Parliament, where he claimed that the majority of the school community support the location of the injecting room, a claim many of the parents strongly dispute.
Ms Carberry said parents were often stunned at assertions by politicians that the school community supports the facility, because it wasn’t reflected in her experience.
“I’ve been watching closely as over and over again the government says the school community supports not just the safe injecting room, but the location of the safe injecting room,” she said.
“It’s never made sense to me is that you have to put it next to the school.”
Organiser and statistician Jonathan Lowe said he, like many in the community, wanted the safe injecting room to be successful.
“We want it to work,” he said, “but it’s just not.”
Dora Tsipouras grew up in the public housing flats close to the safe injecting room.
“It doesn’t work in its current location,” she told the meeting, “I’ve had to call the police, I can’t count how many times.”
“I’m outraged, are you outraged?” she asked the crowd.
Organisers also invited local member Richard Wynne, Mr Foley and Education Minister James Merlino but they did not attend.
The state government extended the two-year trial of the injecting centre last year to run for another three years.
A 42-year-old man entered Richmond West Primary School last Wednesday allegedly carrying weapons including a flip knife and a fork fashioned into a knuckle duster.
He allegedly approached a ground-level office door on the east side of the primary school and tried to enter. A teacher told him the door was locked and he should check in at reception.
The man then began walking around school grounds and was approached by a second teacher, who asked him to leave and escorted him to the front gate. He refused and returned to the school grounds, prompting the teacher to call the police, according to court documents.
Police charged him with trespassing, resisting police, possession of a controlled weapon and being drunk in a public place.
In an unrelated incident, a man’s body was discovered a day later outside the school grounds. Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
A government spokeswoman said the injecting room had been opened in Richmond because the community had been grappling with drug use for decades.
“The medically supervised injecting room was established to save lives and reduce the harm caused by drugs – which is exactly what the data shows it’s doing,” she said.
Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said there had been an increase in drug offences around the centre.
“We continue to send tonnes of our resources in there,” he said. “It’s confronting when you see those images portrayed last week.”
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