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News July 15, 2019

Berejiklian noncommittal on action as NSW festival inquest continues

Former Assistant Editor
Berejiklian noncommittal on action as NSW festival inquest continues

A formal coronial inquest into deaths at NSW music festivals continues for a second week.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian wouldn’t confirm a timeline for implementing any of the recommendations to follow, despite stating publicly that she is looking forward to receiving them.

The inquest is looking into the drug-related deaths of six young people between December 2017 and January 2019.

Following the conclusion of the inquest, Deputy Coroner Harriett Grahame will make a series of recommendations for methods of harm minimisation, with pill testing a frequent theme throughout the inquest so far.

Berejiklian said whether or not her Government adopts the recommendations, and the timeline for implementation, “depends on what the recommendations have been”, The Guardian reports.

“We want to get the balance right, we want people to enjoy themselves, we want those festivals to continue and increase in number but we also need to ensure lives are not lost when that could be prevented,” she said.

When asked whether there was a link between over-policing and young people overdosing at festivals, Berejiklian said that Government was taking a “holistic approach” to the issue.

Despite reinforcing her sympathy for the families who’ve lost loved ones, the Premier reinforced her message: “Don’t take illegal substances, they’re illegal for a reason”.

Meanwhile, those involved with the inquest could have suggested that proceedings could wrap up with a pill testing demonstration at Splendour In The Grass.

SMH reports that emergency Dr David Caldicott wants to conduct the demonstration this coming weekend at the festival.

Coroner Grahame, as well as the mother of Alex Ross-King who died at FOMO Festival earlier this year, have both expressed interest in attending the demonstration.

Dr Caldicott has been part of two pill testing trials at Groovin The Moo in Canberra, both of which have been hailed success.

Yet the NSW Government has continued to adopt a zero-tolerance policy, with Berejiklian recently insisting that there is insufficient evidence that pill testing will help prevent deaths at music festivals and concerts.

The inquest also heard that two drug-related festivals deaths, Joseph Pham (23) and Diana Nguyen (21) at Defqon.1 in 2018, may have been prevented with faster action by medical staff.

As SMH writes, a report by leading emergency medicine expert Dr Anna Holdgate said that Joseph should have been sent to hospital immediately after showing signs of “significant MDMA toxicity”.

Instead, medical personnel waited until he had suffered cardiac arrest.

Holdgate also criticised the 70-minute transport time it took to get Nguyen to the closes hospital, stating that she treated “below the standard of care”.

The medical treatment system for Pham and Ngyuen, who both died at Nepean hospital, was described as “disorganised, delayed and incomplete”.

The death of Joshua Tam was one of the cases on Monday’s agenda.

22-year-old Tam died after taking MDMA at Lost Paradise festival in late 2018, and a friend of his teared up as he gave testimony. reports that the friend revealed Joshua had taken around 1 gram of MDMA (four or five pills), before disappearing from the group.

The inquest heard that there was only one doctor on-site to look after over 1,000 revellers.

Tam went into cardiac arrest on the way to Gosford Hospital and died around 7pm that day.

The latest news from the inquest followed damning revelations about over-policing at FOMO Festival which led to 19-year-old Alex Ross-King panic-taking almost three MDMA pills.

The inquest heard last week that Nathan Tran’s death at Knockout Circuz in 2017 was preceded by violent police behaviour, with a witness testifying that one officer punched Tran in the face as he began to exhibit symptoms of a seizure.

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