B6.1 NSP Services
B6.2 Serving Indigenous clients

B6.1 NSP Services

In the ACT the non-government organisation DIRECTIONS ACT is responsible, with funding from the Territory Health Department, for managing the Needle and Syringe Program (NSP). NSP services include primary outlets, secondary outlets, silent outlets, an outreach service, pharmacy outlets, syringe vending machines, and training of NSP workers.

Primary outlets

There are two primary outlets in the ACT. One is located in Civic (Canberra City) and the other at Woden (geographically central in Canberra). These primary outlets offer a comprehensive range of free needle and syringe equipment, information, education, counselling, primary health interventions, referrals, and waste disposal. DIRECTIONS is also progressing a proposal for a mobile SP service to address priority gaps in access to services.

Secondary outlets

There are currently five secondary outlets in the ACT:
  • AIDS Action Council, Acton
  • Alcohol and Drug Service, Civic
  • Belconnen Health Centre, Belconnen
  • Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service, Narrabundah
  • Tuggeranong Health Centre, Tuggeranong.
Secondary outlets supply, free of charge, a limited range of needle and syringe equipment.

Silent outlets

There are four 'silent' outlets in the ACT. These operate as secondary outlets but without any publicity of the provision of injecting equipment by the host organisation. Essentially they serve the particular group catered fro by the relevant organisation – for example university students.Top of page


A total of 34 pharmacies (approximately 60% of ACT pharmacies) sell injecting equipment, in the form of 4-syringe FitpacksŪ, in a range of ACT locations. The recommended pharmacy price for a 4-pack, with sterile water and disposal container, is $2 (the equipment is provided to pharmacies at no cost).

It was suggested that pharmacies tend to cater for people who are in the workforce and recreational users.

DIRECTIONS' ongoing efforts to further increase the number of participating pharmacies have been largely unsuccessful.

Vending machines

Canberra has needle and syringe vending machines located at Community Health Centres in the town centres of Civic, Woden, Belconnen and Tuggeranong. Customers pay $2 for a pack of four, with swabs, water and spoon. Pharmacies are the main source of injecting equipment outside the main town centres.

Options to increase the number of SVMs are currently being explored.


A mobile outreach service, the 'Sex Worker Outreach Program' (SWOP), distributes injecting equipment to sex workers in the Fyshwick and Mitchell areas. Recently, DIRECTIONS has provided the training necessary for SWOP staff to distribute the range of equipment equivalent to a primary outlet.


There is no NSP service through Canberra hospitals.

B6.2 Serving Indigenous clients

  • Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service provides a holistic health service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the ACT and surrounding areas. It operates a secondary NSP outlet from its Narrabundah facility – a service accessed by Indigenous clients as well as other members of the community.

  • An evaluation of the SVM trial has reported that 11% of SVM clients and 10% of NSP clients who were surveyed identified as being Aboriginal.

  • Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal youth service, operates an NSP outreach service with support from DIRECTIONS.

  • The Connection, a peer-based drop-in centre at Civic, is not part of the NSP program, but is an innovative service providing peer education and support for IDUs in the ACT, and for Aboriginal IDUs in particular. It is promoted as 'Run for Indigenous users by Indigenous ex users', and as offering services also to IDUs' families and friends. The Connection is auspiced by AIVL, and receives funding support from the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) and the Foundation for Young Australians. It also acknowledges support from Gugan Gulwan, the CDEP, the ACT Youth Coalition and the Sydney Peace Prize Foundation. Among other things The Connection uses a workshop educational kit that has been developed by young Aboriginal drug users.

  • In 2003-04 the Hepatitis C Council of the ACT supported an Indigenous needs analysis which produced the report I want to be Heard. One outcome was an Indigenous-specific brochure on treatment for hepatitis C – described as 'an example of a non-Aboriginal organisation with a non- Aboriginal worker successfully engaging Aboriginal communities'.