Strategic Priority 5 Reduce harm

Harm reduction is about the use of all alcohol and other drugs regardless of legality, recognising that tobacco and alcohol cause significant harm. Effective harm reduction interventions reduce harm before behaviours or risks become problematic.

Although all the strategic priorities within Achieving balance contribute to minimising harm, there is a need to build on existing harm reduction policies and services to achieve greater balance, because harm reduction receives the lowest level of investment and resourcing across all three pillars (supply, demand and harm).

Harm reduction services respond to emerging issues and adapt to local changes in substance use trends and patterns.

For example, early warning systems or prompt response networks play a significant role in monitoring the illicit drug market as they can identify potentially harmful drugs in circulation and notify the community via public health channels.

Broader support services and law enforcement systems also have a role to play in identifying risks and facilitating referrals to the most effective supports and interventions to reduce harm.

A shift towards health-focused responses for people experiencing vulnerability can be achieved by better balancing investment and effort across all three pillars and adopting evidence-based and practice-informed policies.

Unintended systems-related harm can be reduced by parts of the system working together more effectively, and seeking to better understand differing perspectives and approaches. Enhancing coordination within and across government departments and non-government organisations can reduce preventable gaps between systems.

Systemic responses that improve outcomes at the individual, community and system levels can be strengthened by working across and within existing policy, planning and response frameworks in the areas of justice, child protection, employment, domestic and family violence, housing, disability, education, health and youth engagement. 

Priority actions

Actions to build on the harm-related actions under other strategic priorities and reduce harm.



Increase effort in the harm reduction pillar by building on existing harm reduction services, and consider additional interventions such as early warning systems and drug-checking services in entertainment settings.



Participate in national discussions and continue to review evidence for a national minimum unit price for alcohol.



Consider the efficacy of introducing a regulatory framework governing online alcohol sales and home deliveries.



Develop alcohol awareness campaigns based on harm minimisation principles, involving a strong and clear focus on outcomes and a rigorous approach to evaluation.



Implement a renewed approach to alcohol management in remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in line with the Local Thriving Communities reforms.



Introduce measures such as a real-time prescription monitoring program that target the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs, targeted at high-risk groups and that includes  awareness and support options.



Listen to the voices of young people involved with youth justice, child safety, alcohol and other drug services, housing and other support services, and involve them in co-designing solutions, and the services and systems that impact on them.




Ensure key agencies and stakeholders work together across sectors to reduce harm, demand and supply associated with young people’s substance use, identifying options for improved responses to inhalants, and addressing underlying causes of problematic use, particularly for those at risk of contact with the youth justice system.