Published Research

Swensen, G. 
A short history of managing problematic users of alcohol in Western Australia by mental health services. SUCHT, 2020, 66(2), 71-84.

This paper examines the role that mental health services (MHS) performed in the management and provision of medical care and treatment of problematic users of alcohol in Western Australia (WA) over the period since 1900.

The research involved an examination of legislative enactments and regulations, records of parliamentary debates in Hansard, administrative records in the State Records Office, and other sources of public information, such as departmental annual reports, reviews of services, studies and newspapers. 

This research identified three eras of policy involving problematic users. The first, from 1900 to the mid 1970s, relied on controls in inebriates and lunacy legislation to create a regime of civil commitment, designed to confine and compel ‘inebriates’, as well as ‘convicted inebriates’, to ‘dry out’ and rehabilitate. 

The second, between 1975 and the late 1990s, involved the creation of a state-wide system of specialist service providers to provide treatment and recovery for problematic users. The system involved a spectrum of services that included a detoxification hospital, outpatient clinics and community-based regional services established and operated by a statutory public health agency, the Alcohol and Drug Authority (ADA). 

The third era, which commenced in the late 1990s, involved the transfer of all community-based services from the ADA to ‘not-for-profit’ non-government organisations (NGOs). The end result of this devolution was the ADA retained only a limited treatment role, as the operator of the inpatient detoxification facility. The balance of its functions were redefined in relation to the prevention of the use of alcohol and other drugs, primarily through support of mass public education programs, as well as oversight of funded NGO programs. 

The paper concludes with a consideration of a recent major development which involved administrative and legislative actions in 2015 to abolish the statutory body which had operated since 1975 and transfer administrative responsibility for drug and alcohol services into the Mental Health Commission.

Swensen G. 
The management of public drunkenness in Western Australia: policing the unpoliceable?  Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies, 2017, 23(1), 1 – 24.

This paper examines the role of the criminal justice system in managing public order consequences from the problematic use of alcohol in Western Australia (WA) from its beginnings as a British colony in the 1830s up to the recent present. 

For much of this period until 1990, the dominant approach relied on a broad police power to arrest and charge anyone perceived to be intoxicated in a public place. This reliance on the criminalisation of drunkenness resulted in large numbers of individuals appearing in Magistrate Courts, who, if reoffenders, were exposed to extended terms of imprisonment calculated not to rehabilitate but to punish and isolate. 

Decriminalisation of public intoxication occurred in April 1990, as the result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), which established a framework outside the criminal justice system for police to formally divert intoxicated people to sobering up centres (SUCs) instead of detaining them overnight in lock ups.

The paper examines recent reforms of laws which extend the policing of public order through expanded methods of social control involving an array of mechanisms, such as move on notices, infringements and banning orders, to underpin coercive policing and exclusion of those who may threaten social order. 

Without increased critical review and oversight of these reforms it is argued we may see a return to discredited policies of earlier times which were heavily reliant on the criminal justice system to respond to problematic use of alcohol, again raising the spectre of policing the unpoliceable.

Swensen G. 
Public space and alcohol advertising: exploratory role of local government. International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 2016, 5(3), 117 – 123.

The paper argues that local government bodies in Western Australia have had a long-standing key role in overseeing public health standards and regulating business activities, potentially it has a major, but under-recognized, capability to regulate the promotion and advertising of alcohol in public places. 

It is contended that because local government bodies already possess extensive statutory powers to undertake this function, there is a compelling case for them to actively regulate alcohol advertising as they “own” most of the public space in Australian cities and towns. 

Accordingly, local government is uniquely placed to perform a front-line role in regulating alcohol advertising in public places because of its reliance on community-based processes of consultation and decision-making for planning & because this would be an extension of a long standing role concerned with the advancement of public health and traffic safety. 

Swensen G & Crofts T. 
Recent developments in cannabis law reform: the rise & fall of the cannabis infringement notice scheme in Western Australia. Flinders Law Journal, 2010, 12, 79 – 103.

In early 2004 in both the United Kingdom (UK) and Western Australia (WA) introduced reforms to avoid the legal harms associated with minor cannabis offenders appearing before the courts. As the reforms involved different approaches for police to divert someone who had committed a minor cannabis offence, they highlight the pitfalls, merits and lessons in reform cannabis laws for others who wish to undertake cannabis law reform. 

Compared to legislatively prescriptive approach adopted by the WA Cannabis Infringement Notice (CIN) scheme which was based on a separate piece of legislation, the Cannabis Control Act 2003, in the UK police discretion was key aspect of determining when a cannabis warning could be issued. 

The context leading up to reform is referred to, as in WA the CIN scheme was introduced by a reformist Government soon after a Royal Commission into police misconduct had been completed, whereas the UK reform was incremental in nature and built upon measures which had been implemented over a period of time to improve relations between police, young people and minority groups. 

This article suggests that the extensive use of police discretion, as was followed in the UK, is a preferable model for managing minor cannabis offending. Compared to the UK model, the WA CIN scheme was legalistic, constrained polic discretion, involved complex eligibility and compliance requirements, was difficult to administer and resulted in a substantially more cannabis offenders coming to official attention than before the reform. 

The CIN scheme was repealed in October 2010 by the Cannabis Law Reform Act 2010, which amended the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, to establish a system that compelled attendance at education sessions through a Cannabis intervention Requirement (CIR) for first time offenders, based on a more narrowly defined set of cannabis offences than under the CIN scheme,

Swensen G and Crofts T. 
Reforms to minor cannabis offences in the United Kingdom & Western Australia. Web Journal of Current Legal Issues, 2005, 1. 

The paper examines the different approaches followed in the United Kingdom (UK) & Western Australia (WA) that were introduced in each jurisdiction in January & March 2004 respectively in relation to how police might deal with minor cannabis offenders.

In WA new legislation established the criteria and framework for police to issue a cannabis infringement notice (CIN), with a scale of monetary penalties, to a person who had committed one or more of four expiable offences –

a) possession of smoking implements on which there were detectable traces of cannabis (modified penalty $100);

b) use of or possession of not more than 15 grams of cannabis (modified penalty $100);

c) use of or possession of more than 15 grams and not more than 30 grams of cannabis (modified penalty $150); and

d) cultivation of not more than two non-hydroponically grown cannabis plants at a person’s principal place of residence (modified penalty $200).

If the offender expiated the cannabis infringement notice (CIN) within 28 days by either paying the penalty or attending a cannabis education session (CES) there are no further consequences. 

Compared to the WA scheme, in the UK police discretion was formalised through guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which provided the option of cautioning an offender who possessed an amount of cannabis considered as being for personal use.

A common theme in both jurisdictions is that these measures did not disturb the underlying principle that cannabis continued to remain illegal, that the reforms were accompanied by an expansion in the scope of the law in relation to those who commit supply offences and that juveniles were excluded. 

The article notes the reform process was largely conducted by expert groups with oversight by parliamentary committees & that in both jurisdictions government sought to present reform as a measure that would better manage the health and conviction harms due to the criminalisation of cannabis. 

Click here to view or download a PDF version (143k) of this paper.

Swensen G & Prior J. 
Law reform concerning minor cannabis offences in WA Brief (Journal of Law Society of Western Australia), 2004, 31(4), 13-16.

This article outlines the background to the Cannabis Infringement Notice (CIN) scheme, which commenced on 22 March 2004, following the passage of the Cannabis Control Act 2003 through the Western Australian Parliament on 23 September 2003.

The introduction of the CIN scheme meant that WA became the fourth Australian jurisdiction to de-penalise minor cannabis offences. The article discusses some of the goals of the CIN scheme, its major provisions and how it built upon & sought to refine the three other schemes that expiated minor cannabis offences, in South Australia (SA), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory (NT). 

Click here to view or download a PDF version (164k) of this paper.

Hargreaves K, Lenton S, Phillips M & Swensen G. 
Potential impacts on the incidence of fatal heroin-related overdose in Western Australia, a time series analysis. Drug & Alcohol Review, 2002, 21, 321-327.

In response to the rising concerns about the rate of heroin-related fatalities, overdose prevention campaigns, run by both users’ organizations and government agencies, have been implemented in a number of states across Australia. 

In Western Australia (WA) in mid-1997, various overdose prevention initiatives were implemented. These included the implementation of a protocol limiting police presence at overdose events; the commencement of naloxone administration by ambulance staff; and the establishment of the Opiate Overdose Prevention Strategy (OOPS) which provided follow-up for individuals treated for overdose in emergency departments. 

This paper reports the results of a multiple linear regression analysis of 60 months of time series data, both prior to and following the implementation of these interventions, to determine their impact on the number of fatal heroin overdoses in WA covering the period January 1996 to December 2000. 

The model employed in the analysis controlled for changes over time in proxy indicators of use and community concerns about heroin, as well as market indicators. 

The results suggest that, although the interventions implemented have managed to reduce the expected number of fatalities, they have become less successful in doing so as time passes. 

Swensen G. 
The drug war – Asian style. A study of legal measures adopted to combat illegal drug use in Singapore and China. E-Law – Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, 1999, 6(1).

The article compared and contrasted the legal & administrative structures adopted in these two jurisdictions to manage those who had used illicit drugs. 

A number of similarities were identified, even though Singapore is a literate and wealth society and has a legal system steeped in many common law principles through it being a former British colony, whereas the PRC has a history deeply steeped in Confucianist values. 

Both countries follow a policy of ‘zero tolerance’ which relies on severe criminal sanctions designed to punish those identified as having used or possessed illicit drugs, emphasised by a reliance on detention of such persons in detoxification-focussed rehabilitation centres.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (48k) of this article.

Swensen G.
Female genital mutilation and human rights. Australian Social Work, 1995, 48, 27-33.

The paper specifically considers the consequences if claims of cultural relativism were extended to FGM, this would have a deleterious outcome as the practice could be justified as culturally mandated.

Such an outcome would mean that Australia and other jurisdictions would thereby fail to recognise FGM as a transgression of a number of universal human rights contained in instruments ratified under the aegis of the United Nations, to which many countries, including Australia, are signatories.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (229k) of this article.

Swensen G.
Drug problems in Western Australia. A review of non criminal mechanisms to regulate drug users by use of the Health Act 1911. E-Law – Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, 1994, 1(3). 

This paper examined a system established under the Health Act 1911, which has operated in WA since 1958, that requires a medical practitioner to notify the Executive Director Public Health if the doctor is aware or suspects that a person is addicted to a drug specified in the Eighth Schedule of the Poisons Act 1964. (Eighth Schedule drugs are defined as being drugs of addiction.) 

The paper includes an examination of the administrative procedures instituted under the Drugs of Addiction Notification Regulations 1980 & whether the rules of procedural fairness could be implied as to the regulations & the associated Register of notified addicts. 

Click here to view or download a PDF version (231k) of this articl

Swensen G, Ilett KF, Dusci LJ, Hackett LP, Ong RTT, Quigley AJ, Lenton S, Saker R & Caporn J. Patterns of drug use by participants in the WA methadone program, 1984-1991. Medical Journal of Australia, 1993, 159, 373-376.

Swensen G, Quigley A & Lenton S. 
Hepatitis B infection – a proxy measure of risk factors for HIV infection in IDUs? (Letter to Editor).  Medical Journal of Australia, 1990, 153, 434-435.

Swensen G. 
The cost of the Western Australian methadone program. Australian Drug/Alcohol Review, 1989, 8, 35-37.

A study of the cost of the WA methadone program for the year 1986, when methadone treatment was only provided through a public methadone program based at William Street Clinic, which was operated at that time by the WA Alcohol & Drug Authority.

Click here to view or download a PDF version (25k) of this paper.

Swensen G. 
Opioid drug deaths in Western Australia: 1974 – 1984. Australian Drug/Alcohol Review, 1988, 7, 181-185.

A study of the 108 opioid related deaths in Western Australia (WA) in the 11 year period from 1974 to 1984, found that nearly two thirds of these were due to the use of licit opioids. 

Whilst the most frequent licit opioid related death was due to propoxyphene, an important finding was that 19 deaths were due to methadone – most of which occurred at a time when methadone was unregulated & prescribed & dispensed by private practitioners. 

Click here to view or download a PDF version (42k) of this paper.

Quigley AJ, Seow SSW, Ilett KF, Dusci L, Swensen G, Harrison-Stewart A & Rappeport L. 
Buprenorphine detoxification after maintenance treatment. Australian Drug/Alcohol Review, 1987, 6, 5-10.

Seow SW, Quigley AJ, Ilett KF, Dusci LJ, Swensen G, Harrison-Stewart A & Rappeport L. 
Buprenorphine: a new maintenance opiate? Medical Journal of Australia, 1986, 144, 407-411.

Seow S, Swensen G, Willis D, Hartfield M & Chapman C. 
Extraneous drug use in methadone-supported patients. 
Medical Journal of Australia, 1980, 1, 269-271.