Image: Simon Schluter, Fairfax Syndication
Penington Institute is named in honour of Emeritus Professor David Penington AC.
Our story begins in the 1980s with the establishment of the first needle and syringe programs (NSPs) to avert the rapid spread of HIV among injecting drug users that had occurred overseas.
This strategy, along with the formation of the National AIDS Task Force – spearheaded by Emeritus Professor Penington – saved countless Australian lives, our economy many millions of dollars and remains a widely-celebrated example of how to respond to an acute public health crisis.
Our very first incarnation, the Needle Exchange Workers Network (NEWN), contributed to that success and to Australia’s reputation as an international leader in HIV/AIDS.
NEWN was formalised in 1995 as the Association of Needle Exchanges (Anex). Anex held regular meetings of NSP service providers, an annual conference and published the highly regarded Bulletin, providing the sector with peer support as well as information about best practice and emerging drug trends.
Anex’s close connections to the frontlines provided unique insights into the impacts of laws and policies on people who use drugs. Increasingly, Anex came to involve itself in policy debates.
This expansion of Anex’s activities led to the creation in 2014 of Penington Institute.
Since then, Penington Institute has led from the front in calling for evidence-based drug policies that keep individuals and communities safe and healthy. This thought leadership has been especially prominent in many of our ongoing projects and campaigns, such as Australia’s Annual Overdose Report and International Overdose Awareness Day, and in our work together with government, such as providing the Australian Government with the model that informed its three-state Take Home Naloxone Trial and in our Victorian Government-funded digital campaign to support young people who are using or contemplating using ice, Understanding Ice.
Drawing on its rich history while constantly striving to reduce the impacts of problematic drug use, Penington Institute will continue making significant contributions to the national and international debate around drugs well into the future.