Elaine Cooper is a Clinical Advisor to Courts Victoria and previously worked as a Harm Reduction Worker under the Needle Syringe Program at Primary Care Connect.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your history
I am a mum of 3 adult children and a grandmother of 5. Before I started working within the Community Services sector, I was a nurse for many years and have always fought against stigma of any kind as it can cause so much damage and often isolates people even more.
I have been working in the Drug and Alcohol sector for the last 5 years here in Shepparton at Primary Care Connect. Initially I worked as an AOD clinician and I am now supporting the community as the Harm Reduction Worker, running the NSP (Needle Syringe Program) and working with intravenous drug users, providing support, harm reduction strategies and education.
Tell us about your journey and how it relates to hepatitis
I first learned about hepatitis as a nurse and back then the treatment was nothing like it is now, I have seen the impact that hepatitis has had on people. Sadly, there is still a lot of stigma associated with viral hepatitis and intravenous drug use, but the treatment has greatly improved, although still only a small amount of people are being treated, compared with those who are living with it. My priority is to try and educate my clients without prejudice and see the whole person, not just the diagnosis.
Why do you think it’s important to get the message out?
You should never judge someone by how they look or by their illness or behaviours. I am passionate about putting an end to this kind of stigma as it stops people seeking out the help they need. I believe people should not be discriminated against because of their substance use and within my role I can provide education to others so that they have a better understanding, and the stigma is reduced.
What is your message to others?
Never judge, as you don’t know what that person may have been through or be dealing with.