Penington Institute’s Chief Patron, Sir Gustav Nossal, is one of Australia’s most prominent scientists and was Australian of the Year in 2000.
Sir Gustav was born in Austria in 1931 and came to Australia in 1939. In 1965 he was appointed Director of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, a position he held from 1965 to 1996.
Among his many other past and current leadership roles he was President of both the Australian Academy of Science and the International Union of Immunological Societies, which is the world body of immunology. He is a consultant for the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He was also Chairman of the Global Foundation Advisory Committee and was Deputy Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation from 1998 to 2000.
The passionate concern of close friends, including David Penington, about the need to improve approaches to drug and alcohol issues sparked Sir Gustav’s own involvement. Professor Penington’s accounts of the many lives devastated by the impacts of drug abuse, the lack of support from governments, and the hope offered by harm minimisation approaches so impressed Sir Gustav that he resolved to contribute his support.
He distils Penington Institute’s philosophy into one central concept: Is the person who abuses drugs a criminal or sick?
“I’m very much of the mind that the latter is the case,” he says. “We should not be looking at alcoholics and drug addicts as very bad people we should despise, but regard them as sick people whose illness happens to have taken this particular direction. And I think the forward-looking aspect of the Penington Institute will be to try to promulgate that view and to forge policies that take these factors into account.”