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Up The Cross: The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre

in-Training is thrilled to present the educational animations below, created by medical student Ariana Kam. They highlight efforts undertaken in Australia to establish a medically supervised injecting center in response to Australia’s heroin epidemic in the 1990s.


Artist Statement

I am a student at Boston University School of Medicine, and I use visual media to highlight personal stories of addiction and recovery. In collaboration with the Australian-American Fulbright Program, I spent 2019-2020 examining the treatment of substance use disorders in Australia through the lens of animation. As part of this project, I created a pair of educational animations focusing on the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in Sydney’s Kings Cross. This series, entitled Up the Cross: The Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, examines the founding, protocols and benefits of the MSIC, which was established in 2001. Research by the University of Sydney reveals that since the MSIC’s founding, facility staff have supervised over one million injecting episodes with zero overdose-related fatalities.

Up the Cross comprises “Part One — Beginnings” and “Part Two — Harm Reduction Methods.” “Beginnings” highlights the sociopolitical climate which allowed for the opening of the MSIC in the Kings Cross suburb. “Harm Reduction Models” explores how the clinical model of the MSIC contributes to harm reduction.

My hand-drawn animations and shadowy palette capture the essence of The Cross suburb, depicting its “moth to a flame” character, 19th-century architectural origins and dense maze of inner urban lanes. The films’ characters are imagined as native and feral fauna. The narration is drawn from my 2019 interview with Dr. Ingrid Van Beek, the founding Medical Director of the Kings Cross MSIC.

As “Beginnings” describes, the Uniting MSIC was proposed as a response to the Australian heroin crisis of the 1990s. By 1999, the number of heroin deaths nationwide exceeded the national road toll, drawing significant public attention to the country’s drug problem. The New South Wales government chose to launch a trial injecting center in Kings Cross given that this suburb presented with the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country. The Uniting MSIC finally opened its doors in 2001 and continued to function on a trial basis until 2010, when it gained a permanent legal license for operation.

“Harm Reduction Methods” explores how Van Beek and others developed a regulated model for a safe injection facility in Kings Cross. Van Beek describes the three service stages of the MSIC: client assessment and registration, the supervised injecting episode, and the after-care stage. She notes how each stage presents an opportunity for crisis counselling and treatment referrals.

In summary, the aims of this animation project include:

  1. Educating healthcare providers, social workers and the general public
  2. Facilitating discussions about diverse public health interventions
  3. Fostering a sense of community among current and former users
  4. Destigmatizing substance use and treatment

I hope that Up the Cross will ultimately educate and inspire a wide array of audiences, including medical professionals, users and the general public.

Ariana Kam (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Boston University School of Medicine

Ariana Kam is a third-year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine. She was a 2019-2020 U.S. Fulbright Scholar based in Australia. Ariana received a Bachelor of Arts in organismic and evolutionary biology and a secondary degree in film/video from Harvard College in 2016.