Syringe City in Australia

By Sonia Campbell

CITY Place has been revealed as Cairns’s biggest drug shooting gallery with 1000 syringes discarded since January in toilets and streets surrounding the inner city mall. Addicts are also dumping hundreds of used syringes at many of the city’s other popular public places, including the Esplanade near Muddy’s playground and the city library.

The figures were released this week by Cairns City Council after an audit of its sharps disposal bin program. From January to October the highest number of needles placed in sharps containers in public toilets in Cairns and south of the city were – City Place (700), McKenzie St (188), Lennon Park in West Cairns (129), and Greenpatch at Gordonvale (100).

While the council says the figures confirm the sharps disposal program is working, alarmingly hundreds more used syringes are being discarded carelessly on the ground and in gardens in various public places.

Most of them were found at City Place (300), the Esplanade from Muddy’s to the pirate ship (100), City library (100), and old library site on Lake St (100). “These figures that we’ve got are basically for the southern and city areas and we’re waiting on the northern areas,” Cr Margaret Cochrane said yesterday.

Cr Cochrane said while the City Place figure of 300 syringes found improperly discarded was of particular concern, it wasn’t “disturbing”. “It’s only one improperly discarded needle a day. Which shows that the (sharps) receptacles are being utilised to their intent and the current program is working where the receptacles are,” she said. However, she said in light of the figures, the council would monitor the area more closely. “There would be an opportunity to view the footage on the (security) cameras … and our staff just need to be a little bit more aware of what’s going on.”

Dianne Forsyth from the Cairns Addiction Help Agency said while any used syringe found in a public place was a concern, the numbers being found were quite low, given that about 500,000 needles were issued to the city’s IV drug users in the needle exchange program each year.

“If you look at the number of (discarded) needles that we’re actually collecting, I’m assuming that most are disposing of them safely somewhere else,” Ms Forsyth said. She said more education material supplied to those accessing the city’s needle program, could be one solution.

Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne said the results of the audit would be used to determine other areas where sharps disposal bins were needed.

Source: The Cairns Post/The Cairns Sun (Australia) December 3, 2005 Saturday

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