Global Member Highlight: Isabella Ross ’20

Written by Isabella Ross ‘20, Co-Project Leader of the Just Say Know Peer Education Programme for SSDP University College of London

What is your name?

My name is Isabella Ross.

What SSDP chapter are you a part of?

I’m part of SSDP University College London.

Where are you from? What is something you love about your country and/or culture?

I’m from Australia! I think the coolest part of Australian culture happened before we became ‘Australia’ in 1901, which is its indigenous history. If you venture a bit outside of our capital cities, you can see the most amazing pieces of history, whether it be the oldest rock art on earth, the absolute beauty of Uluru, or the oldest example of aquaculture in the world at Budj Bim. 

What inspired you to become interested in drug policy? How long have you been involved in drug policy? What are some drug policy campaigns, programs, or projects you’ve participated in that you’d like to highlight?

Unfortunately, a less upbeat note. My cousin passed away from a heroin overdose in 2016. Since then, drug policy reform in Australia, and specifically the need for safe places to consume drugs in Melbourne has been at the forefront of my family and I’s beliefs. I’ve formally been involved in drug policy reform since 2017 when I was part of a team who presented a Bill to the Victorian Youth Parliament hoping to introduce a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in Melbourne. Victoria’s first MSIC was excitingly announced later that year! I’m a bit of a new recruit in SSDP, and I only became a member of my chapter last month when I came on board to help out our chapter’s president, Iulia, in being a co-project leader for UCL’s very own Just Say Know peer-to-peer education volunteering programme. 

Since September, I’ve had some great opportunities to do some work in drug policy reform. I’ve interned with the fabulous team at Volteface, an advocacy organisation seeking to reduce the harm drugs pose to society through policy reform, and have worked with the Labour Campaign for Drug Policy Reform (@LabourDrugRef on Twitter), which is a great group advocating for Labour Party drug policies founded in evidence-based public health, harm reduction, and all that other good stuff! I’m also currently working at the Heroic Hearts Project UK (@heroicheartsuk on Instagram), which aims to connect veterans and emergency service workers struggling with mental trauma to psychedelic therapy. There are HHP branches in the US and Canada too. I think their work could make a real difference to the landscape of psychedelic research related to mental health treatment. 

What do you believe is the most important issue in your community right now?

Considering I’m still new to my London community, I can probably speak better on Australian issues! I think the lack of amplification given to indigenous issues, both a product of lack of sufficient representation in law-making and the general disrespect of non-indigenous law-makers toward these issues, is absolutely abysmal. We recently, for example, saw the cutting down of the sacred birthing tree at the Djab Wurrung cultural site in Victoria, a move sanctioned by the government in order to cut commuters’ drives by two minutes. There is a clear prioritisation of minor convenience and profit over the wants and needs of our indigenous communities. 

Would you like us to share your social media or link to a website for a campaign or project of yours? (If yes, please list it.)

I tweet about all things drug policy at @isabellakross, & you can find SSDP UCL on Insta at @ssdpucl.