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NSW Coroner recommends introduction of pill testing and banning sniffer dogs at festivals
The inquest investigating the drug-related deaths of six young people, aged 18 to 23, at NSW music festivals over two summers has seen Deputy NSW coroner Harriet Grahame recommend pill testing be conducted in NSW, along with decriminalising personal drug use and the scrapping of drug detection dogs at music festivals.
Delivering her findings today (Friday 8th November) Grahame noted there was compelling evidence to support pill testing, which could prompt behavioural change and advised that "drug checking is simply an evidence-based harm reduction strategy that should be trialled as soon as possible in NSW.”
Grahame also advised that high-visibility and punitive policing operations at festivals had inherent dangers and few if any benefits, recommending that drug detection dogs be scrapped. Referring to the evidence, Grahame noted a heavy police presence with sniffer dogs could be intimidating and lead to panic ingestion and dangerous preloading, increasing the risk of illness or fatality.
Grahame recommended that the Government should give full and genuine consideration to "decriminalising personal use of drugs, as a mechanism to reduce the harm caused by drug use".
She also advised that "the evidence arising from this inquest clearly indicates there is much that can be done to prevent MDMA deaths ”recommending a drug summit be held with relevant stakeholders to develop an evidence-based drug policy” - a recommendation welcomed by Live Performance Australia (LPA).
LPA’s Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson, advised “we again extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who died, and acknowledge the very important contribution they have made to this inquiry.”
“The Deputy Coroner has, after six weeks of hearings, made a series of important evidence-based recommendations to improve safety and reduce drug-related harm at music festivals.
“We urge the NSW Government to give proper consideration to these recommendations and take the steps necessary to prevent further drug-related harm.
“The music festivals industry has repeatedly put on the public record our desire to work with Government on these issues, including its music festival regulations.
“The Coroner’s recommendations include a regulatory roundtable involving government and industry stakeholders.
Richardson added that “this must be a priority in the lead-up to the next summer festival season.
“Next week the Government’s draft Music Festivals Bill goes to the Upper House with some proposed amendments. These amendments include a proposal to establish an industry roundtable to ensure ongoing consultation and transparency on the operation of the regulations.
“Despite repeated assurances of industry consultation, this has failed to eventuate.
“Given the Government’s failure to act so far, we believe it’s important that the consultation process is set out clearly in the legislation to ensure the commitment is delivered upon.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly argued that harm reduction measures deliver the wrong message to young people, instead arguing they should just say no to drugs.
25th September 2019 - Live Performance Australia advises that collaboration is key to safer music festivals
28th August 2019 - Inquiry calls for scrapping of NSW festival licencing scheme
30th April 2019 - Pill testing saves lives at ACT’s Groovin the Moo festival
20th January 2019 - NSW Government to require licensing of music festivals after drug deaths
18th January 2019 - Leading medical body calls for pill testing trials at Australian festivals
19th September 2018 - NSW Premier announces panel to look into drug issues at music festivals
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