Editorial: Praise for Women
This issue of User’s News is dedicated to many wonderful and brave women – those who use drugs, like the amazing women who have contributed their stories, and those who support us by providing health services or adding to the evidence base around drug use. I would like to single out one such supporter and thank for her ground-breaking work on our behalf.
Psychiatrist Dr Stella Dalton passed away on 20 August after devoting nearly 50 years to people who use drugs. An exceptionally strong, resourceful and motivated woman, she left an incredible heritage. As early as the 1960s she emphasised human rights for users, believing that we needed health care and social support, not jails and discrimination. She treated us with respect.
In 1969, Stella became Australia’s first prescriber of methadone and soon after started Australia’s first in-patient opiate detox unit. She promoted methadone as allowing heroin users to “lead a normal life in society, reasonably happy and productive”. She was initially denied funding for the program, but when heroin use doubled in 12 months, a legacy of the Viet Nam war, the NSW government gave her seed funding and she opened Wisteria House in Western Sydney in 1970.
It would have been hard for anyone to get the programs going that Stella did, for such a despised population. For a woman it must have been nigh-on impossible. She received an Order of Australia for her services to medicine in 2007.
Clevva was one of Stella’s patients and talks about the good old, bad old days, how far we’ve come and what it took to get here. Our UN reader volunteers told me this story gave them goose-bumps. One reader said “Just knowing there are people like Stella gives me strength and hope.”
You will not be surprised to know that I got this kind of reaction to all the women who have told their stories in this edition. I know their experiences will move and inspire you too. No matter what your gender, I hope you enjoy the Women’s Edition.