Today, the New South Wales coroner’s office has officially handed down its findings into recent drug-related deaths at music festivals, recommending the Berejiklian state government introduce pill testing and scrap sniffer dogs
An inquest investigated the drug-related deaths of six young people, aged 18 to 23, at NSW music festivals over two summers.
In the report released today, deputy state coroner Harriet Grahame made 28 recommendations directed to the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Department of Health, NSW Police Force, NSW Department of Communities and Justice, NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA), EMS Medical and the Australian Festivals Association, including the establishment of a festival roundtable, a Drug Summit, pill testing in various forms and that the personal use of drugs at NSW music festivals should be decriminalised to reduce the harm caused by drug use.
Grahame said there was “compelling” evidence to support pill testing, which could “prompt behavioural change”.
“Drug checking is simply an evidence-based harm reduction strategy that should be trialled as soon as possible in NSW,” she said, as well as noting the high-visibility and punitive policing operations at festivals had inherent dangers and few if any benefits and drug detection dogs should be scrapped.
General Manager of the Australian Festivals Association, Julia Robinson, attended each day of the inquest with the AFA appearing as an interested party.
“We welcome Deputy Coroner Graham’s report and thank all involved for the careful consideration of the broad range of expert opinions. In particular, the care taken to hear from our young people as if they were experts in their own rights was really inspiring,” she says. “This was an extremely important process for our industry that will likely shape the future of festivals not just in NSW, but across Australia. It was a thorough review of all aspects of these six tragedies that found a complex problem, requiring a multi-faceted solution.”
These findings come just days before the new Music Festival Bill is debated in the Upper House.