Associate Professor Caitlin Hughes

Matthew Flinders Fellow, Centre for Crime Policy and Research, Flinders University
August 2019
Each issue we ask someone from the alcohol and other drugs sector to share a little about their work and life.

This weekend I will explore my new city of Adelaide: in addition to house hunting, I’ll head to the farmers market, go for a run along the river and hire a car and head to my new favourite beach (Henley) and up to the Adelaide Hills. I am definitely enjoying the 20-minute proximity to everything. 

I'd originally planned to work as a genetic counsellor. But then I discovered criminology and drug policy as an undergraduate student and haven’t looked back. 

The qualities I most value in my colleagues are curiosity and a genuine openness to new ideas and ways of doing things, a willingness to not shy away from the big policy challenges, a commitment to frank and fearless advice and a passion and commitment to the field and to improving even by small steps policy on the ground. I am absolutely indebted to the Drug Policy Modelling Program team, particularly Alison Ritter, and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre more broadly for showing why such traits matter – particularly the importance of breaking down silos, particularly between disciplines and between policy and academia, to build good drug policy research.

If I had more time, I'd learn more languages. Not only are they fabulous and so useful for travel and exploring new cultures, but it is a huge asset in drug policy – particularly for drug policy researchers doing comparative research like myself. But, I am motivated to continue to expand my Spanish skills, in light of our forthcoming drug policy conference in Mexico (May 2020).

Having just moved universities, I won’t have a major holiday for a while, but I am fortunate to have overseas work trips, including one to Kuala Lumpur where we will be discussing drug decriminalisation in the region. But for my next holiday I will go to Cuba, where I look forward to stepping back in time and explore the magnificent history, architecture, music, food and classic cars.

Career wise, I’m most proud of three things: first my amazing higher degree research students - seeing them tackle alcohol and other drug challenges and move on to apply their verve for drug policy research all over the world; second, working with Alison Ritter to obtain drug law reform in the ACT – namely the first evidence informed drug trafficking thresholds; and three, becoming Vice President of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy and having the opportunity to pay it forward for everyone who has mentored me and to shape the future directions of the society, including building research capacity in South East Asia.

My vision for the AOD sector and for Australian drug policy more generally is one that embraces innovation, that leads the pack and that capitalises on the incredible gift that Australia has in terms of the sector (including one of the highest per capita rates of AOD researchers) to deliver a drug policy that is less stigmatised, where people who are marginalised are given help and support rather than punishment, and where harm minimisation is truly at the centre of all that we do.


Caitlin Hughes

Caitlin Hughes is an Associate Professor in criminology and drug policy and Matthew Flinders Fellow at the Centre for Crime Policy and Research, Flinders University. Caitlin has spent 17 years researching drug and alcohol policy, including the last 12.5 years at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW, working as part of the Drug Policy Modelling Program. Having joined Flinders University in July 2019 she has a mandate to expand national and international research into drug laws, drug law enforcement and drug trafficking and to build research translation. She is a Visiting Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and is Vice-President of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy.