Laneway Light – Beyond the Stigma

To mark International Overdose Awareness Day cohealth worked with the Little Projector Company to shine a light on the stigma and demonisation of drug addiction.    

In the lead up to International Overdose Awareness Day 2022 (external webpage), we lit up a Melbourne city laneway with images and artworks created by people who have a lived experience of drug dependence. The exhibition lit up Westwood Place and various other laneways, buildings and footpaths in the Melbourne CBD from 25 – 31 August 2022.  

Drug dependence is a complex health and social issue, not a sign of personal or moral failure. The shame and stigma associated with drug use pushes people to the margins of society, creates barriers to seeking help, and means health issues go untreated.

‘Laneway Light – Beyond the Stigma’ enabled people with a lived experience of drug use to express their point of view. The project promoted greater compassion and care for people who are drug dependent and generated conversations about health-based responses to drug use in the community.

Who was involved?

People with a lived experience of drug dependence, either current or past, were invited to submit their artwork. People who have loved ones with a lived experience of drug dependence were also invited to submit their artwork.

The artists who contributed artwork ranged in age from 7 years to 65 years. They included people who are:

  • experiencing homelessness
  • getting treatment in rehab
  • survivors of abuse
  • studying their Masters
  • family members of people who have died of drug overdose
  • professional artists

One thing all the artists had in common is that they have been affected by drug dependence – either directly or indirectly, past or present. 

How can I view the installation?

You can now view the exhibition video on our website, and view the gallery of artwork below.  

Gallery of artwork

Click on the artwork below so see a full size version, or download the collection of artworks in the Laneway Light – Beyond the Stigma program booklet (PDF 4.7MB).

Here is my beautiful daughter Kirsten. She is one of the best works of art I know. She battled, she overcame and she ended up losing the battle.
My hands were somewhat tied as you lived your life using. As a mum I could change or fix most things. However, I couldn’t stop, fix or change your situation. The abuse you experienced as a kid, was I believe the driving force behind your usage, but the amount and…
It’s about the sense that amongst all the confusion that there’s someone watching over you, as you deal with the confusion and pain and suffering, as you make good choices and bad ones.
I contribute a photo of my son, Aaron. Tragically we lost Aaron in August 2015. Forever 26 years young, it still seems surreal, as he was doing so well in this photo. Addiction is a health issue that deserves a human response.
Millie Mattered Overdose and Addiction Advocacy
Lockdown changed the world for me, I decided to take up photography and art as a way to cope with it all with the result being a wonderfully surprising new view of the world
Calling 000 can save lives. If someone’s dropped, make the call. And remember, Ambo’s are not cops, it’s safe to dial in (external link).
My painting represents my journey from active addiction back to recovery. The vibrant colours represent my bright future ahead of me and the elements of water, forest, mountains and country show my new-found connection with nature.
A mixed media portrait of my mother, a person who opened their heart and mind, allowing me to land after incarceration and start the journey of recovery.
There are many layers to drug dependence.
I think ultimately my drug use was an attempt at a solution to something i didn’t know how to solve. It created more of a disconnect but I don’t think it’s fair to say it was the root cause of my disconnection. My art work is about reconnecting with parts…
The photos sum up our life on the farm and shows things that matter to us as parents, and how they have helped us through our own mental health challenges which can be caused by our loved ones’ struggles with addiction.
LD did this painting for his dad.
AJ did this painting for her dad.
Created from my lived experience of mental health & psychosocial challenges, domestic & systemic violence, addiction & homelessness, I examine the social construct of cultural shaming & stigmatisation of people who are vulnerable & at risk & explore the capacity of the Inner Spirit to heal human suffering.
This artwork does not have a description.
It’s about the darkness of being homeless, but that there is light.
Hello. I wish I could say one more hello before I had to say goodbye.
When I created this piece I was in the depths of my addiction, this was a reflection of how I felt inside during this period of my life. I often found piece in creating art when I was in an altered state.
Stigma kills people in many ways. This image depicts the barrier that all forms of stigma create and impede people feeling that they are loved, worthy and valuable.
Inspired by snapshots of my life.
That talented people overdose as well. It’s not always the scumbag you expect to die, that does.
This artwork evolves over time. Pages leak into each other. Simplicity becomes complexity.
We are all someone’s daughter, son, mother or father.
This artwork does not have a description.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with drugs with the bright shiny times being rough around the edges and the bad times often being calm – either way, it leads to broken hearts.
This artwork does not have a description.
If I were to fill this bowl with water, it may nourish this earth’s skin, but only momentarily, because there is a deep open split which allows the water to leave - and the fish would most likely leave with the water. That’s not something I am prepared to do,…

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cohealth is a not-for-profit community health organisation. We provide essential health and support services in Melbourne’s CBD, inner-north and inner-west, and the east coast of Tasmania.

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