Our story

Emeritus Professor David Penington AC

Emeritus Professor David Penington AC   –  Image: Simon Schluter, Fairfax Syndication

Penington Institute is named in honour of Emeritus Professor David Penington AC.

The evolution of Penington Institute begins with Australia’s establishment in the 1980s of needle and syringe programs (NSPs) to avert the rapid spread of HIV among injecting drug users that had occurred overseas. This strategy saved the Australian community from enormous grief and loss, not to mention public health costs and lost productivity.

Our earliest incarnation, the Needle Exchange Workers Network (NEWN) contributed to that success, helping Australia to become a world leader in best practice for dealing with HIV/AIDS.

NEWN was formalised in 1995 as the Association of Needle Exchanges (Anex) Inc.  Anex organised regular meetings of NSP service providers, an annual conference and published the highly regarded Bulletin, providing the sector with support and development opportunities.

Anex’s close connection with the front-line realities of working to promote the health and safety of people who use drugs and their communities provided a unique insight to the impacts of various drug policies. Increasingly Anex became involved in analysising relevant research and contributing to policy debates.

The expansion of Anex’s activities has led to the creation in 2014, of the Penington Institute, an independent, not-for-profit organisation contributing substance and reason to emerging drug issues.

Where we made a difference

Penington Institute builds on Anex’s impressive achievements, which have included:

  • Leading public discussion around the potential for saving lives by expanding the distribution of naloxone (an overdose reversal drug) to community members, resulting in government support in many Australian jurisdictions and in the Victorian Government funding of the Community Overdose Prevention and Education (COPE) program.
  • Creating awareness about the increasing use of methamphetamine (ice) and the negative impacts on communities including; individual, family and community health and safety through media, community forums, educations sessions and health and corrections training seminars.
  • Establishing the first dedicated workforce development team to build the capacity of the Needle and Syringe Program.
  • Creating the Anex Bulletin, the only magazine of its type in the world, which raises a range of needle and syringe program related issues and keeps front-line workers up-to-date with new information, research findings and emerging issues.
  • Producing a training program and resource, ‘Keeping mum and baby happy and healthy’, exposing parenting and illicit drug use risks and opportunities for positive intervention;
  • Reviewing existing international literature and commentary on sexual health issues for young injecting drug users, and after consulting urban and regional experts and young drug users, the development and delivery of a campaign to support sexual health protection;
  • Establishing the Network of Victorian Pharmacotherapy Service Providers, a key initiative that unites health workers and service providers and was a key driver for government reform and increased pharmacotherapy system funding;
  • Generating government support and funding to expand access to and quality of the needle and syringe program;
  • Working with government and community controlled health organisations to address drug use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;
  • Establishing the National NSP Policy and Practice Forum, leading to the Australian Return on Investment in Needle and Syringe Programs research;
  • Creating the breakthrough seminar series ‘Harmaceuticals’ to highlight the increasing rates of pharmaceutical misuse and related overdose;
  • Generating support among leading medical professionals and eminent Australians, for the trial of a regulated needle and syringe program in prison. This policy has been adopted by the ACT government;
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