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Official Inquiries & Investigations & Summits

Since the early 1970s there have been a number of official inquiries in WA concerned with the adequacy of existing policies & the need for reforms to manage problems attributable to the use of alcohol and other drugs:

  • Investigation into drugs & alcohol by Dr Archie Ellis (1972)
  • Royal Commission Into the Treatment of Alcohol & Drug Dependents (1973)
  • Report on dependence on alcohol & other drugs in WA by Dr Thomas Bewley (1979)
  • Review of WA Alcohol & Drug Authority by Dr Bruce Ritson (1983)
  • Select Committee Into Alcohol & Other Drugs (1984)
  • Working Party on the WA Alcohol & Drug Authority (1989)
  • Task Force on Drug Abuse (1995)
  • Select Committee Into Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (1997-1998)
  • Working Party on Drug Law Reform (2002-2004)
  • Statutory Review of Cannabis Control Act 2003 (2007)

Whereas the earlier inquiries were focussed on identifying the health, social & law & order related consequences attributable to alcohol & other drug use & outlined options for expanding services & policy directions, the inquiries since 1995 were confined to considering illicit drug issues. These latter inquiries recommended an expansion in the powers of law enforcement agencies, outlined major reforms for the delivery & scope of treatment services & proposed that government increase its expenditure on programs to prevent and/or reduce drug use.

Click here to go to Wikipedia for a list of the names & dates of the political parties which have held government in WA from December 1890 (when the state obtained responsible government from being British colony) to identify the context when each inquiry was held.

Investigation Into Drugs & Alcohol (1971-1972)

This report was the result of investigations by Dr Archie Ellis, the Director of Mental Health Services. It was presented to the Minister for Health in February 1972 & was based on information obtained from visits betweeen July to November 1971 to a number of countries, as well as attendance at two international conferences.

It summarises impressions on the nature of alcohol & other drug problems, treatment services & the legal framework in Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, the United Kingdom, Jamacia, Bahamas Islands & California. There are also comments from a visit to Wisteria House in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW) about the methadone blockade program that Dr Stella Dalton had operated there since 1969.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (4.3Mb) of this report.

Royal Commission Into Treatment of Alcohol & Drug Dependents (1972-1973)

A Parliamentary Select Committee was appointed in May 1972 to investigate the adequacy of the methods & facilities to treat alcohol & drug dependents & to determine ways to 'combat' dependency in WA. It was chaired by Richard Williams MLC, a Liberal member of Parliament.

In November 1972 the Select Committee was dissolved & its members reappointed as a Royal Commission, which reported to government in May 1973. One of the key conclusions of the Royal Commission was that there needed to be a higher degree of coordination & leadership by government regarding treatment services & this could be achieved by creating an autonomous authority. This recommendation was adopted & resulted in the passing of the Alcohol & Drug Authority Act 1974. This legislation enabled the establishment of the WA Alcohol & Drug Authority (WAADA), which commenced in November 1974.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (2.3Mb) of this report.

Click here to go to a page with details of Annual reports of the WAADA from 1975/1976 to the present.

Dependence on alcohol & other drugs in WA (1979)

This wide-ranging 56 page report presented the findings from a review by Dr Thomas Bewley, a Consultant Psychiatrist at St Thomas' & Tooting Bec Hospitals, London & Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Dr Bewley was commissioned by the WA Alcohol & Drug Authority to undertake a survey of agencies, stakeholders, local experts & interest groups. The review provided the ADA with a number of recommendations, such as the need for developing long-term strategic objectives, to consolidate & focus its treatment services, to prioritise the prevention of alcohol & other drug problems in the wider community & to deliver education & training programs to improve skills of those who worked in the drug & alcohol sector in the metropolitan area, as well as regional areas.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (1.9Mb) of this report.

Review of WA Alcohol & Drug Authority (1983)

In 1983 the WA Alcohol & Drug Authority commissioned Dr Bruce Ritson, an eminent Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, to review its clinical service, its relationship with professional bodies & practitioners as well as the non government sector & examine other areas for organisational development such training & research. The report also examines a number of priority areas, such as the difficulties in delivering services in non-metropolitan areas of the State & the specific issue of problematic alcohol use by Indigenous people.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (686k) of this report.

Select Committee Into Alcohol & Other Drugs (1983-1984)

The Select Committee tabled its report in the WA Parliament in May 1984 after being established in August 1983. It was chaired by Gordon Hill MLA.

A feature of this inquiry was that it included a detailed consideration of the impact of alcohol related problems in WA encompassing both the health & criminal justice systems. Whilst the inquiry sought to determine the effectiveness of the role of the WAADA, it included a wide ranging review concerning alcohol & other drug issues. It resulted in a large number of recommendations involving a spectrum of matters, such as the adequacy of existing services & the need for additional treatment services, educational & training needs & law enforcement issues.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (7.9Mb) of this report.

An unusual aspect of the inquiry was its examination of a range of alcohol related problems, including extensive information about different measures, such as reductions in availability of alcohol & augmentation of law enforcement measures. This section was written by the WAADA's research psychologist (Dr Ian Smith) & was published in Appendix C: Availability of alcoholic beverages & crime: an example of the value of social policy research.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (2.4Mb) of Appendix C of the report.

Working Party on the WA Alcohol & Drug Authority (1989)

In July 1989 the Working Party released a report of its review of the Alcohol & Drug Authority with reference as to whether the ADA be absorbed into the Health Department. The review had been commissioned by the then Minister for Health (Keith Wilson) to respond to a functional review by the Government which had recommended disbandment of the ADA. The working party investigated whether (1) the ADA be disbanded as had been recommended by the Functional Review, (2) that the existing status & operations of the ADA be maintained or (3) that the existing status of the ADA be maintained but that its operations be reviewed to achieve increased efficiencies.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (2.9MB) of this report.

Task Force on Drug Abuse (1995)

The Task Force on Drug Abuse (TFDA) was established in December 1994 & reported in September 1995. It was chaired by Mike Daube.

The ambit of the TFDA was to develop a detailed & comprehensive understanding of the magnitude & impact of alcohol, other licit drugs (eg prescription drugs & tobacco) in addition to illicit drugs. Whilst the inquiry had a strong emphasis on preventive & other longer term demand reduction measures, it also included an examination of the adequacy of treatment services, in relation to illicit drugs, particularly heroin.

To view or download PDF versions of the TFDA's three part report Protecting the community, click on these links:

The inquiry resulted in major changes of the approach of government in managing alcohol & other drug issues in WA. Some of these reforms were modelled on approaches in the UK, such as creation of a centralised government office responsible for oversight of drug policy across departments, the development of Community Drug Service Teams (CDSTs) as the primary service providers instead of this function being performed by the WAADA, a greater role for community action through funding of Local Drug Drug Action Groups (LDAGs) & the adoption of a State drug strategy & action plans to provide strategic direction in managing alcohol & other drug issues.

Click here to go to the Annual reports page for an overview of a series of organisational reforms in WA since the mid 1990s which redistributed various functions between the WAADA, the WA Drug Abuse Strategy Office, the Health Department of WA & the Drug & Alcohol Office.

Select Committee Into Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (1997-1998)

The Select Committee was set up by the Legislative Committee in June 1997. It was chaired by Chris Baker MLA.

A major stimulus for establishing the Select Committee had been a marked increase in accidental heroin related deaths (HRDs) in WA. Whereas there had been an average of 22 HRDs per year from the mid 1980s up to 1990, the number of deaths increased throughout the 1990s, to a peak of 81 by 1999. Against this backdrop of deep community concern, the inquiry was established to identify policies & suggest solutions to the use of heroin & other illicit drugs by:

  • examining the adequacy of existing legal sanctions in ameliorating the use of illicit drugs
  • the capacity of educational, health & community service support services to assist those affected by the use of illicit drugs

Two reports were tabled in the WA Parliament in November 1997 & August 1998:

  • Taking the profit out of drug trafficking: An agenda for legal & administrative reforms in WA to protect the community from illicit drugs (November 1997)
  • Finding the right balance: Working together as a community to prevent harm from illicit drugs & to help individuals & families in need (August 1998)
  • To view or download PDF versions of these reports click on these links:

    Working Party on Drug Law Reform (2002-2004)

    The Working Party on Drug Law Reform (WPDLR) was appointed by the Minister for Health in December 2001 to provide the government with additional advice on two areas referred to in recommendations 39 & 40 from the August 2001 Drug Summit. The WPDLR was chaired by John Prior a practising Barrister & Solicitor.

    The WPDLR's first term of reference related to the issue of cannabis law reform to provide a model for the implementation of a scheme in WA for minor cannabis offenders to be issued with infringement notices, as outlined in recommendation 39 of the Drug Summit. The first report, Implementation of a scheme of prohibiion with civil penalties for the personal use of cannabis & other matters, was published in March 2002. (The cannabis infringement notice (CIN) scheme commenced on 22 March 2004.)

    The WPDLR's second term of reference was related to part of recommendation 40 of the Drug Summit & was concerned with identifying improvements in legislative & administrative arrangements that could be made to better support key principles of harm reduction. The second report, Law enforcement measures to reduce harms associated with injecting drug use in WA, was published in February 2004.

    The WPDLR was dissolved in March 2004.

    Copies of these reports are presently available from the Drug & Alcohol Office website here.

    Statutory Review of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 (2007)

    The statutory review examined the first 3 years operation of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 (CCA) & was published as three separate reports, two of which were tabled in the WA Parliament in November 2007 - the Technical report & and the Executive summary. The third report, Supplementary tables & figures, was published at the same time by the DAO on its website.

    Click here to go to the Cannabis law reform page for details of the content & availability of these 3 reports.

    Drug Summits

    In addition to these official inquiries, there have been two 'drug summits' in WA - both of which explicitly excluded consideration of alcohol:

    • Community drug summit (held over 5 days in August 2001)
    • Amphetamine type stimulants summit (one day in July 2007)

    Copies of reports & papers related to these two summits are available from the Drug & Alcohol Office website here.

    A number of the papers were published in June 2001 as background material for the drug summit as follows:

    • Illicit drugs in WA: Current services & strategies
    • Illicit drugs in WA: Facts & figures
    • Young people & illicit drug use (Issues Paper No. 1)
    • Supporting families to deal with illicit drug issues, particularly regarding issues for children of drug users & parents & siblings of drug users (Issues Paper No. 2)
    • Addressing illicit drug use among Aboriginal people, including the provision of treatment programs for Drug dependent Aboriginal people (Issues Paper No. 3)
    • Prevention & early intervention strategies, including school, parent & public education & action in local communities (Issues Paper No. 4)
    • Treatment for drug users & reintegration of drug dependent people into the community (Issues Paper No. 5)
    • Broadening the provision of treatment for drug users through other human services, including the health, justice, welfare & youth sectors, & its
    • integration with specialist alcohol & drug services (Issues Paper No. 6)
    • Drugs & law enforcement, including consideration of the most appropriate legal framework for illicit drugs, diverting drug users into treatment & treating the most serious offenders in prisons (Issues Paper No. 7)
    • Reducing harm to the community & individuals caused by continued drug use (Issues Paper No. 8)
    • Linking drug strategies into overall social policies to address the underlying causes that generate other social problems, such as violence, suicide & crime (Issues Paper No. 9)

    In WA the Australian Labor Party (ALP) had gone to the State election in February 2001 with the intention of holding a 'drug summit', consistent with its pre-election manifesto of drug law reform, which included 'decriminalisation' of minor offences involving cannabis.

    Drug summits had been popular methods adopted by a number of ALP State governments in Australia as a hybrid forum to canvass public opinion, identify issues, determine priorities & make recommendations on drug policy. The sequence of the various summits held in Australia are:

    • Queensland drug summit, which had a ‘youth’ focus (March 1999)
    • New South Wales drug summit (May 1999)
    • WA drug summit (August 2001)
    • South Australian drug summit (June 2002)
    • New South Wales alcohol summit (August 2003)

    Except for the NSW Summit on alcohol abuse (in August 2003), drug summits have focussed on illicit drugs. The NSW alcohol summit was held in August 2003 and was attended by members of parliament, key government departments, appointed 'community representatives' and selected 'experts'. A similar approach to representation of interests was followed in the May 1999 NSW drug summit & by the WA drug summit in August 2001.

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