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Precursors to a Media Frenzy: Supervised Chroming, Young People in Care and the Victorian Government's Drug Policy

NCJ Number
Youth Studies Australia Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 11-17
Judith Bessant
Sheila Allison
Date Published
September 2003
7 pages
This article attempts to clarify and understand the relationship between the media and policy-making with a specific focus on the supervised chroming (associated with supervised heroin injecting rooms for adults) of young people in care in Australia and how the media engage in contemporary youth policy-making.
In 1980, Stanley Cohen’s “moral panic” model pointed to one of the ways in which researchers interpreted the complex relationships between the media and policy-making processes. Cohen’s insights brought to attention that how a situation is initially reported by the media is critical to the progress of a moral panic because it is through the media that most people receive their knowledge about a problem. However, there is the need to consider what the precursors to the “moral panic” are in order to better understand the role of media activity in policy-making processes. The moral panic model provides a valuable framework for understanding press stories featuring supervised chroming. Debate and a moral panic about substance abuse, including the question of whether the state should sponsor facilities of heroin injecting for adults had been simmering in the policy-making community since the 1990's. At the beginning of the 21st century, Australia’s drug problem was reported as serious. However, the preceding issues like those of the heroin-injecting room debates, and disclosures of systemic abuse and neglect in welfare institutions produced conditions resulting in a particular receptiveness to the supervised chroming issue for youth. However, the media released editorials warning that supervision of children while they chromed was a “fundamental issue” and the no adult should stand by while children take harmful drugs. This was an emerging issue of public liability and the prospect of future legal action against the state by the children and families. The role played by powerful networks and the influence of particular discourses about drug policy, youth policy, and health and crime all had their origins in long-standing debates which were reliant on medical and moral accounts of disturbed, drug addicted youth. These precursors were key formative factors that explain the media discovery of the supervised chroming problem in 2002. References


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