Last year, Judy Ryan was awarded an OAM for her “service to community health through a range of programs” – chief among them, campaigning for the first-ever safe injecting facility in Melbourne. You Talk We Die is her memoir, a personal and practical account of what it takes to effect progressive change, even when the odds are stacked against you. Scribe AU were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
Ryan grew up in the country, so little had prepared her for what she would experience moving to the inner-city suburb of Richmond. The area was a heroin hotspot, with drug deals taking place in the open. Ryan frequently had to call emergency services to assist strangers who had overdosed in the street. There were 34 fatal overdoses in 2016 alone.
Two separate coroners had recommended establishing a safe injecting room in the area – but no one was willing to take the political risk of acting on their advice… until Ryan did, that is.
You Talk We Die isn’t a scholarly analysis, or an expert testimonial. Ryan had no background or qualification in drug law reform prior to getting involved in the fight for a safe injecting facility. That makes You Talk We Die more of a for-beginners guide to harm minimisation through legislation.
It’s a straightforward no-nonsense testament to the power of simply taking action. It’s also a wonderful reminder that humanity and compassion should be front and center in any legislation around drugs and addiction. Don’t skip the Appendices – I found the extracts from the visitor’s log at the Medically Supervised Injecting Room in North Richmond the most moving part of You Talk We Die.