Two recent deaths at Australian music festivals over New Year’s Eve weekend have people calling for pill testing at such events. However, government officials are resisting.
One 20-year-old man died after attending Beyond The Valley near Melbourne. Another 22-year-old man died after attending Lost Paradise, north of Sydney. The ingestion of an “unknown substance” was ultimately the cause in the second case, which made the news especially unsettling.
Two others died from potential overdoses at Defqon.1 last year.
NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts gave a blunt response following the outcry for pill testing. “We oppose the use of illegal drugs at these festivals,” he said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed a softer, but similar response. “If there was a way in which we could ensure that lives were saved through pill testing we would consider it — but there is no evidence provided to the government on that.”
Meanwhile, Harm Reduction Australia President Gino Vumbaca has called for a new way of thinking. “The continual reliance on law enforcement, extra policing, extra (sniffer) dogs, severe penalties, that all happens, but we see what happened at the music festival in New South Wales and festivals around the country,” he said in speaking with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “There shouldn’t be any problem with introducing a pill testing program that operates within the festival itself.”
In the midst of the tragic happenings, Australian Festival Association (AFA) has formed to help make festival goers more safe.