The National Audit component of the Initiative was an ambitious project. It sought to explore, among other things, the "accessibility" of needle and syringe distribution outlets; to identify the nature and quantities of disposed needles and syringes; to identify the clientele using distribution outlets and disposal facilities; to determine strategies across both government and the private sector for managing community disposal; to determine the effectiveness of these strategies; to map the locations and quantities of disposed equipment; to identify community concerns about needle-stick injury and determine the actual risks associated with appropriate and inappropriate disposal. This is a broad ranging brief that was always going to prove to be difficult given the limitations of data availability and the timeframe for the study.

In our view, despite of the magnitude and complexity of these challenges, the consultants, Waste Audit and Consultancy Services, did an exceptional job at attempting to complete these many and varied tasks. Arguably, the project's greatest achievement is the breadth of consultation it was able to achieve across such a broad range of stakeholders. The consultants spoke with more than 100 organisations, including government, not-for-profit and private companies. In addition, they were able to achieve exceptional response rates to their survey of local government and NSPs. The reasons why this may have occurred have been considered, and it is likely that a combination of a number of factors is responsible for such a high response rate. In particular, this success highlights the importance of laying the foundation with key stakeholders and persistent follow up of non-responders.

All of the tasks identified for this project have been completed. However, not all of the tasks are contained in detail in the final report. For example, "accessibility of needle and syringe outlets", level of community concern about risk of injury from inappropriate disposal, and the quantity of needle and syringes discarded were not reported fully in the final report but data has been recorded in the Access database. The quantity of needles and syringes discarded has also been recorded with suburb by suburb locations identified in the GIS process. From the information collected, it was not possible to ascertain the type of people who use the public disposal facilities. While some of the tasks may not have been covered fully in the final report, it is our view that the consultants have done the best possible job within the limitations they were presented with.

The recommendations made in the report are large in number and broad in scope. They address issues beyond the immediate issue of disposal, to include such things as accredited training for NSP staff, although this approach has been endorsed by the Department as it documents knowledge that emerged from the consultations that would otherwise be lost.

A significant number of the recommendations suggest further work be undertaken and, as such, may suffer from the termination of the Initiative in the May 2005 budget. It remains to be seen what the legacy of this report will be. This may be affected by the level of circulation of the report, and the support generated for its conclusions and recommended actions. Given the subject matter and the efforts that have been made to ensure that the breadth of the discussions conducted with key stakeholders is reflected in the final report, it is hoped that the report will find a wide audience.Top of page