News January 10, 2019

Australian Festivals Association calls for “preventative strategies” in wake of recent deaths

Australian Festivals Association calls for “preventative strategies” in wake of recent deaths

In the wake of two deaths over the holiday period – at the Lost Paradise festival and Beyond The Valley –  and the ensuing debate about the effectiveness of pill testing, the newly formed Australian Festivals Association (AFA) is calling for “preventative strategies” on drug use.

In an open letter to state and territory governments across Australia, the AFA called for:

  • On-going state-based Music Festival Regulation Roundtables to be set up “to ensure better relationships between regulators, medical experts, promoters, emergency service providers and law enforcement.”
  • To appoint AFA members to Regulation Roundtables to tap into their skill and experience.
  • Work with health, festival and drug experts to develop pill-testing trials
  • Adopt an evidence-based, health-focused approach to drug regulation and commission further research into recreational drug use
  • Collaborate to convene a national drug summit to allow in-depth, meaningful, expert-led discussion around drug use

The AFA said: “We do not believe that pill-testing is the only answer.

“But it is a crucial part of a broader harm reduction strategy that prioritises people’s health and safety, over criminality or laws.

“Encouraging drug abstinence instead of education is out-of-touch, proven to be ineffective and unnecessarily risking lives.

“Young people deserve better. Older people deserve better. Families deserve better.”

In the wake of the two most recent deaths at festivals – totalling five since September – most of the states and territories outside of the ACT refused to budge from their anti-testing stances.

But Queensland and NSW seemed to have softened theirs, calling for proof that such tests work.

In New Zealand, health minister Stuart Nash is moving to introduce pill testing to all festivals after Rhythm and Vines promoters revealed they discovered fake pills containing pesticides on site.

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