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Australia’s first ‘drug-safe’ industrial community

By Craig Hingston

Drug-Safe Communities has announced a strategy to establish the nation’s very first drug safe industrial community.

The organisation, which was founded by long time anti-drugs campaigner Michael White, will focus their efforts on the Wetherill Park-Smithfield region. Michael began his crusade in the late Nineties after losing his business partner to heroin addiction, a tragedy which led to the closure of that business.

The announcement was made at a breakfast at Eastern Creek organised by the Cumberland Business Chamber, called “Navigating The 21st Century Ice Age”, where Dr Tharid Ali was announced as the person to lead this campaign.

“It’s all about changing lives and creating safe working environments.”

“For employers it also means increased productivity, improved morale and reduced insurance premiums when your work place is drug safe.”

Michael said his organisation has already reduced drug use from 15 percent to just one percent in Western Sydney companies.

“Seventy per cent of drug users are employed. They need their jobs to support their habits. Two thirds of them use their drugs at work.”

“Some business owners believe they know their staff and they but my own story shows just how you can be taken completely by surprise and lose everything you have to drugs.”

“When you consider that some employees are operating complex equipment and machinery, and they drive vehicles on the road and in warehouses, what is the potential risk to them and their work mates if they are being effected by the influences of various types of drugs?”

Michael said Drug-Safe Communities assists employers by running drug awareness workshops. Testing of staff is confidential and they try to keep people in their jobs. When they find people with an addiction issue they refer them to specially trained counseling services.

“It’s a case of three strikes and you’re out.”

Testing can be for all employees or a percentage of the business each time and results are completed in 24 hours. They also assist by helping to set up drug policies. Michael added that employers can introduce drug testing as a pre-employment program when they are interviewing. If interviewees are made aware of this and they have a drug problem it is unlikely that they will turn up for the meeting, and if an interviewee returns a positive drug test result they cannot claim unfair dismissal because they were not employed.

Michael said creating a drug safe community is good for morale.

“Staff are enthusiastic that their employers are taking action.”

Dr Tharid Ali is preparing to meet with businesses in Wetherill Park and Smithfield Drug-Safe Communities provides screening and testing services (oral fluid, urine and alcohol), assistance with development of policies and procedures, education workshops and training, competency courses, alcohol and other drugs awareness, mobile clinics, self testing kits and test results analysis.


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  1. Kay Schieren

    Great stuff – I started a drug-free youth programme in 2007 which went nowhere because the first meeting of the incorporated association failed to get a quorum, and we folded. The system was similar with testing and a person testing positive would have to pay for the test, and three strikes, you’re out was the same.

  2. Anne

    Zero drugs in the workplace is a beginning. Uncovering the reason why people drink to excess or take drugs in the first place is the next step. Unless the underlying drivers are understood and reformative programs put in place, the drug testing regime is as effective in cleaning up our community as trying to treat measles with a bandage. Only treating the symptoms and not identifying and rooting out the causes is a futile exercise.

  3. Jack

    Marijuana is a miracle herb, many uses, including medicine and food, yet it is illegal, while “legal” drugs, prescribed by doctors, kill more people in the USA now than vehicle accidents.


    What is needed is education, not legislation. Portugal decriminalised drugs 14 years ago – and now hardly anyone dies from overdosing


  4. Jason

    Jack a conservative news outlet promoting gun deaths as being less than drugs isn’t the best media site to promote: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/CNSNews.com

    Recreational drug use is ok but pot obviously complicates that as it’s in the body for long periods of a month or more. Pot can be abused in addiction to escape problems so it’s best to deal with the underlying issues which hopefully this program will allow by referral to counselling services. Portugal is a good model for addicts.

  5. Jason

    I still get the security message when submitting comments on my iOS device. Can this be fixed as it means my details are sent insecurely.

  6. Michael Taylor

    Hi Jason, it has been fixed but for some reason the message still comes up. I’ll look it into it though.

  7. corvus boreus

    I applaud this initiative. People who roll up to work pickled or baked have a tendency to make dumb and dodgy decisions.
    Could we get ‘Drug-Safe Communities’ to conduct broad spectrum testing of all elected members and senators entering any parliamentary sessions and conducting or attending any hearings of official commissions or committees?

  8. Jason

    Corvus there’s a reason the mobile drug testing (MDT) in NSW doesn’t include cocaine. It’s because the politicians, lawyers and bankers all use it.

  9. corvus boreus

    My only disagreement would be with the ‘all’ in your statement.
    Ps, yes, substance testing appointed members of the judiciary before they oversaw any legal proceedings might not be that bad an idea either.

  10. Jason

    True lol I’m not sure why I put that “all” in. It’s definitely not all.

  11. Jack

    Jason, shoot the messenger if you wish, the information is either right, or wrong, if you think it is wrong, then please provide your credible link that says so. Thanks.

  12. Jason

    Jack, not sure where you got shooting the messenger from? I’m just stating facts that it’s a biased conservative media article funded by millionaires promoting guns because drugs kill more people than guns. A horrible line of reasoning IMO.

    There are marijuana anonymous meetings (google it) specifically for a reason and many former former and current marijuana addicts I know that were in the depths of addiction. Not everyone gets addicted but many do and when you need to escape reality with substances then it can become a problem. Ofcourse many can use it recreationally without issue but they’ll fail the drug tests in this scheme. Again a fact I pointed out as well. That’s a complication of this program as you may have THC in your system but not be under the influence. Thats something I worry about with these blanket testing schemes.

  13. Jack

    Shoot the messenger means disregarding the message because you don’t like the source of the message, regardless of it’s veracity. That information was reported all over the internet, not all sites were sponsored by pro gun millionaires. To dismiss the message, that pharmaceuticals, that is “legal” drugs” cause considerable harm, such as more deaths than from vehicle accidents or firearms, because you may be anti-gun, and are suspect of a particular websites agenda, is a horrible line of reasoning IM unqualified O.

    If people suffer detrimental effects from using cannabis, my advice would be to stop. Others are able to be regular users of heroin, or cocaine, and still be able to function and lead a normal lifestyle. There are many people that benefit tremendously from marijuana, and there is a big difference between use and abuse. I dont think anyone has ever died from an overdose of cannabis, Im happy to be corrected. Education, not legislation, demonstrably, as per Portugal, shows the benefits.

    I agree with your last two sentences. Some even say that people who use cannabis are actually safer drivers, and even if someone does have a trace of cannabis in their system, is it fair to punish them when their may be absolutely no impairment to their driving? It makes me wonder how many people are driving on our roads, significantly impaired by “legal” drugs, that are simply not policed.



    “Drug-Safe Communities” – I think the world has more pressing issues than some mob who want to make a dollar out of demonising people who might enjoy a little recreational cannabis.

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