Needle and syringe programs: your questions answered

Are needle and syringe programs legal?

Page last updated: 2005

Legislation was amended to allow needle and syringe programs to operate when governments realised the need to provide sterile injecting equipment to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Generally, each state and territory allows authorised Needle and Syringe Programs and pharmacies to provide needles and syringes. Health services wanting to provide a Needle and Syringe Program must be approved by the Minister for Health or an approved delegate of the Health Department in their state or territory. Once approval has been given a service can only operate under strict conditions. In all states and territories, except Western Australia, it is not an offence for people to be in possession of needles and syringes. However, the possession and use of illicit drugs remains a crime throughout Australia.

Needle and Syringe Programs work collaboratively with police departments in every state and territory to develop effective working relationships at a local level. Police can enter Needle and Syringe Programs at any time and are able to approach or apprehend clients. However, discretion is used to ensure that the Needle and Syringe Program can operate effectively.

  • Needle and Syringe Programs are legal in every state and territory and are strictly regulated.

  • Centres need authorisation from the Minister for Health or an approved delegate of the Health Department before starting a Needle and Syringe Program.

  • Needle and Syringe Programs work collaboratively with police departments in every state and territory.
New South Wales Police:

The New South Wales Police acknowledge the significant public health benefits and cost savings of Needle and Syringe Programs. The Police support a harm minimisation approach to illicit drugs and Police policy reflects the need to consider the operation of Needle and Syringe Programs. Guidelines recommend Police officers be mindful of unwarranted patrols around Needle and Syringe Programs which could deter people from attending. However, the Programs are not a 'no go' area for Police. It is vital that Police and Needle and Syringe Programs continue to develop positive and productive relationships to ensure a safe environment for the community, Needle and Syringe Program outlets, their clients and Police.