Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

committed to preventing tragedy that arises from illicit drug use

7th Annual Remembrance Ceremony

for those who lose their life to illicit drugs

Weston Park, Yarralumla, ACT

Monday, 4 November, 2002


(Click on links to read speeches)

Healthy Voices

Zen Zenina (Trad Zulu)

Welcome and Introduction - Brian McConnell, President, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

‘Reflections’ – Anne Deveson, author of ‘Tell Me I’m Here’

Healthy Voices

Innanay (Trad. Indigenous Australian)

Address: Brendan Smyth, Shadow Minister for Health and Community Affairs

Reading of names

Remembrance of those who have lost their life to illicit drugs

Placing of flowers at foot of memorial

Healthy Voices

Guide Me Lord (Trad. African American Spiritual)

Address: Rev’d Gray Birch, Chaplain to the ACT Ambulance Services and former National Director of the Uniting Church Frontier Services

Healthy Voices

Halle Halle (Trad. Polynesian)

Similar ceremonies have been held this past weekend

in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and Sydney.

Why Remember

We are brought together again under this tree and by this rock because of what we have in common and to remember those who have died.

Drug use and mental illness need not cut us off from one another as effectively as death does but the associated ignorance, fear and prejudice often does. We may have journeyed here alone today but together under the beauty and embrace of this tree we find comfort, understanding and knowledge which is often absent in our wider community.

This gathering is important because it helps to bring together a community where there has been so much isolation, shame and despair. We know that an addiction to illicit drugs like any other addiction is a mental dysfunction; that the stresses associated with illicit drug use often bring on other mental illnesses, that many have taken the drugs as self medication and that sometimes the illicit drugs themselves have seemed the only friend that those with a mental illness have had.

The improving services and practices and the shortage of heroin has thankfully led to fewer deaths. We rejoice because with life there is always hope. We know, though, that even at the height of the heroin drought, deaths were still occurring and that other drugs, linked to serious mental illnesses, have been flooding in. Effects have changed but the distress of users, families and friends remains.

We still need a public focus of the worth of the many who have used illicit drugs. We remember each as a whole human being who often displayed humour and courage in the face of adversity that would have crushed most of us.

We affirm that the suffering of most if not all those for whom we mourn today should have been avoided. We may not all fully understand or agree with the path some chose but that choice should not have made them an outcast or have led to their death.

The locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) under which we are gathered was chosen because of its particular associations for the family of one of our members whose brother died in 1996. The tree then was bare. Its thorns stood out against the winter sky. But spring has brought new growth and white blossoms. Let its beauty and the confidence in its renewal inspire us.

The plaque and stone will continue to stand watch by the tree during the coming seasons. Let our meeting next year indeed be the celebration we yearn for of the end of death and suffering from illicit drugs - the most fitting memorial for those we remember today.

The Memorial Plaque

"...The blossoms are blossoming without you..."

(Jennifer Meyers, "Joshua knew only the winter")



"You have gone from earth,
Gone even from the meaning of a name;
Yet something’s there, yet something forms its lips
And hits and cries against the ports of space,
Beating their sides to make its fury heard.

"But I was bound, and could not go that way,
But I was blind, and could not feel your hand.
If I could find an answer, could only find
Your meaning, or could say why you were here
Who now are gone, what purpose gave you breath
Or seized it back, might I not hear your voice?"

(Kenneth Slessor, "Five Bells")

16 December 1996
Erected by Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform

Permission by the publishers, HarperCollins to print part of Kenneth Slessor’s poem is gratefully acknowledged.

We acknowledge that the ceremony today is taking place on Ngun(n)awal land.

Thank you to ‘Directions’ for their contribution to refreshments .

If you wish to be notified of the next ceremony please leave your name and address in the book provided.

Further information concerning Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform (ACT) Inc. can be obtained by writing to: PO Box 36, HIGGINS ACT 2615 or by phoning (02) 6254 2961.