The global debate on drugs and harm reduction has drastically changed since the 90s and many governments now openly acknowledge the shortcomings of punitive drug laws, with some moving toward positive reform - Portugal is at the forefront of that reform.

Portugal's decriminalisation model is widely acknowledged as an example of how to protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs - hence a befitting location to host the largest international harm reduction event, Harm Reduction Conference Porto (HR19). The conference brought delegates together from across the globe working at the heart of harm reduction and drug policy - this year, Youth Projects included.

This year’s conference particularly highlighted the importance of putting public health and people’s lives before political ideology. Despite progress in the global debate, reform in many places remains far off and HR19 was a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about the public health and rights advances made under Portugal’s model.

It was a great opportunity for us to connect with and learn from a range of trailblazers in the space, including the likes of Agência Piaget para o Desenvolvimento (Portugal) and the North American Network of Supervised Injecting Facilities (Canada). We face similar challenges in providing effective response frameworks here in Australia and proving both social and economic return on investment.

Attending the conference reaffirmed the effectiveness of our harm reduction programs, especially the groundbreaking work through programs like the Proactive Overdose Response Initiative and The Living Room - a reflection that our impact is far greater than some might be aware.