Latest News

Back to Latest News back


NSW music festival deaths inquiry told trauma of strip-searches similar to that of sexual assaults

NSW music festival deaths inquiry told trauma of strip-searches similar to that of sexual assaults
July 19, 2019

The Coronial inquest into the deaths of six young festivalgoers has today heard about the effects of ‘dehumanising’ body searches with a harm reduction campaigner and a criminologist saying the trauma experienced in police strip searches is akin to that suffered during sexual assaults.

Giving evidence to the inquiry today, RMIT criminology lecturer and researcher Peta Malins said the experience of being ordered to undress in front of police and accused of concealing drugs could cause long-lasting mental effects.

Malins advised “they talk about how huge the effect can be emotionally, the anxiety, the fear, increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shaking and nervousness

“They talk about how hard it was to answer the questions of the police.”

The issue of strip searches at music festivals has risen a number of times during the inquest, which is examining the deaths of six young people from MDMA toxicity at musical festivals between December 2018 and January 2019.

On Thursday, counsel assisting the coroner Peggy Dwyer advised that the inquest would seek access to NSW Police strip search protocols, saying the circumstances under which they were permitted “should be clearly understood by the families of the young people who are involved in the inquest and by the general public at large”.

However, today the Redfern Legal Centre released the results of a Freedom of Information request which suggested the protocols may not exist.

In December the legal centre requested a copy of standard operating procedures related to strip searches in NSW, but only received copies of extracts from the publicly available police code of practice and police force handbook.

In NSW, Police can carry out a strip-search in the field if the officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the search is necessary, and that the seriousness and urgency of the circumstances make it necessary.

However, critics of the practice say there is no detail on how police make that decision, and officers have breached their powers in the past.

Malins, who published an academic paper based on interviews with 22 people who had been searched by police, said being stopped and searched was already traumatic.

She advised that those strip-searched found it “particularly dehumanising” to be ordered to undress completely and display openings to cavities.

She stated “there was an overwhelming sense of powerlessness … a feeling as though they had been intruded upon.

“In one particular interview, the woman said the trauma triggered past experiences of sexual and physical abuse that she’d experienced.”

Will Tregoning, the founder of harm reduction organisation Unharm, said he had spoken to people who had likened their strip-searching to sexual assault.

Tregoning advised “it’s traumatic (and) my concern is it additionally trains people to not trust police.”

Tregoning said most police officers were pragmatic and held a very strong sense of social service but he said the drug searches could create a climate of fear and further barriers between young people and the police trying to keep them safe.

The Coronial inquiry was told on Thursday that police had been directed to reveal their strip-search protocols and an internal report on officers’ use and understanding of those guidelines.

Alex Ross-King, Nathan Tran, Diana Nguyen, Joseph Pham, Joshua Tam and Callum Brosnan died after consuming MDMA at NSW music festivals between December 2017 and January 2019.

With AAP.

Related Articles

17th July 2019 - Splendour in the Grass festivalgoers urged to stay safe

16th July 2019 - Music festival deaths inquest hears presence of Police dogs led to panicked drug-taking

16th July 2019 - NSW Government’s festival licensing scheme needs ‘complete overhaul’

13th July 2019 - Inquest hears of multiple failings by organisers and Police over festival drug deaths

16th June 2019 - Five charged for supplying drugs at music festival at Sydney Olympic Park

30th May 2019 - Following 2018 drug deaths Defqon.1 festival now ‘postponed indefinitely’

13th May 2019 - Sydney FC fan evicted from A-League finals game over disabled daughter’s bathroom access

30th April 2019 - Pill testing saves lives at ACT’s Groovin the Moo festival

13th May 2019 - Action on festival regulations welcomed by Live music industry coalition

20th January 2019 - NSW Government to require licensing of music festivals after drug deaths

16th September 2018 - NSW Premier vows to ban Sydney music festival after drug deaths

Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.


supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

Jonas Leisure

JonasLeisure offers a complete range of leading leisure and recreation software brands – envibe, Centaman, Gladstone Health & Leisure, The Retention People, Nutrition Complete and…

read more

Aquatics / Billing / Fitness / Recreation / Sport


Hydrocare Pool Services

Hydrocare Pool Services Pty Ltd offer 30 years of experience in aquatic industry features, products and water treatment. Hydrocare Pools has undertaken water treatment for aquatic centres and…

read more

Aquatics / Attractions / Play / Recreation / Technology



Digonex is a leading provider of customised dynamic pricing solutions to clients in arts and entertainment, sport, attractions, cultural institutions and retail sectors. Digonex’s technology is…

read more

Attractions / Entertainment / Sport / Technology / Ticketing



Links Modular Solutions are a leading provider of high-quality, innovative software solutions for leisure facilities. Our software suite includes modules such as POS, Classes, Members, Facility…

read more

Access / Billing / Finance / Fitness / Technology



Rhinoplay offers playground equipment in Australia that is safe, durable, and most importantly fun! We specialise in creating unique indoor playgrounds for play centres and outdoor playgrounds for…

read more

Parks / Play / Surfaces



Gladstone Health & Leisure (Gladstone MRM Pty Ltd Australia) is a leading supplier of leisure management and fitness software and is endorsed by leading health and fitness professionals and…

read more

Access / Billing / Fitness / Technology / Venues


The Retention People Australia

TRP help health clubs, leisure centres and gyms across the globe create happy, loyal members through our user-friendly software which enables effective engagement and the delivery exceptional customer…

read more

Fitness / Marketing / Recreation / Technology / Wellness



Since 1989 Elite Pool Covers have designed and manufactured an extensive range of high quality affordable manual,semi-automatic and fully-automatic pool cover systems for the harsh Australian…

read more

Aquatics / Environment / Technology / Venues


get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business