Australian Drug Observatory

Priority area: 

This fund will support research that provides the scientific evidence to inform:

1) Illicit drug policy in Australia

Australians have one of the highest rates of consumption of illicit drugs in the world. Persuading young Australians not to use illicit drugs is challenging and traditional methods are not working. The rate of change in the illicit drug market in Australia is difficult to predict and beyond the usual monitoring systems. A new approach is needed.  

The introduction of drug-checking at music festivals overseas has given researchers a head-start on identifying dangerous new drugs before they can become more widely available, it also changes the behaviour of consumers, at the point of consumption. In November 2005, The Australian Medical Association called for a pilot of such a program in Australia, and this call was re-iterated at the Australian Drugs Summit 2015 as a matter of 'national priority'.

2) Development of supporting infrastructure for Australian state and federal medical cannabis initiatives

Legislation to allow the cultivation of cannabis in Australia for medical or scientific purposes passed Federal Parliament in February 2016, with state governments expected to follow soon.  Rigorous evidenced-based research is critical to independently inform legislators who have the challenging task of implementing change.

Dr David Caldicott, along with scientists from the Research School of Chemistry, ANU Medical School and the Centre for Social Research and Methods, lead the newly established Australian Drug Observatory.  The Observatory will address some of the gaps in illicit drug and medicinal cannabis research in Australia though innovative, multi-disciplinary research.  Located at the Australian National University in Canberra, the Observatory is uniquely positioned to influence policy-makers and translate research into practice.

The Australian Drugs Observatory Fund will support the following activities:

  • Expand the analytical capacity and expertise in studying the Australian illicit drug market
  • Provide robust, independent commentary and facilitate debate on Australian drugs policy for legislators and the public
  • Undertake a pilot study for drug checking at music festivals
  • Research of medicinal cannabis use in Australia, focusing on the infrastructure required to support a medicinal cannabis regime.

For further information as to what has been agreed as a scientifically supported approach to Australian drug policy, please see the outcome document for the Australian Drugs Summit.

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