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04. Australian illicit drugs policy: mapping structures and processes

This Monograph (No. 04) focuses on the policy making process. To achieve our overarching goal of improving illicit drugs policy activity in Australia, we need to improve the evidence base used by policy makers and to facilitate their use of it. Our limited understanding of how policies are made is one of the barriers to providing good decision support resources and processes. In this feasibility research, the ANU team trialed three approaches that are standard in political science but little used in illicit drugs research: 1) structural and institutional analysis; 2) reputational influence mapping; and 3) interviews with influential policy makers and researchers.

Over the last two decades, a set of structures has been put in place at various levels with the explicit goal of facilitating policy activity on illicit drugs. The team identified over 100 organisations involved in creating Australian illicit drugs policy. The reputational influence mapping research explored methods for gaining a clearer understanding of which people are perceived to be the most influential in shaping policy on illicit drugs in Australia. The social network of people regarded as influential does not have a random topography. The interviews with senior policy makers revealed much about policy processes and the research-policy nexus. The insights from this research will lead to more detailed research on policy processes.