Written by Rory Scott.
Produced for online by Leia Comegna
Australia’s first ever pill testing trial proved very effective at the Groovin The Moo Music Festival in Canberra on Sunday, according to Harm Reduction Australia president Gino Vumbcca.
Out of 85 substances that were tested at the festival, two were found to be lethal.
The successful trial is good news for organisers as the festival season ramps up.
Illegal recreational drugs go hand in hand with music festivals and although security measure have always be in place to stop patrons bringing them in, the fact remains they are part of the festival culture.
Groovin The Moo is a one day festival that takes place in three locations around Australia, and this year they set up a pill testing trial for festival goers.
Vumbacca says drugs are a big part of the festival and the pill testing service is vital in protecting potential users from harm.
“In previous years there has been no pill testing service, so people just consume it in hope what they bought was going to give them the effect they were after,” says Vumbacca.
There has been backlash from some who believe it encourages illicit drug use.
Mr Vumbacca says the program was not designed to encourage but to educate and protect.
“We are not encouraging drug use. What we are trying to do is make people who are going to take the drugs have a safer environment and have a better understanding of what they are doing,” says Vumbacca.
He says he is positive more festivals will follow suit as the results proved that the program worked.
“What we did show in Canberra on the weekend is that we can run a pill testing service. We can actually provide some very useful information to the patrons and we can reduce the level of harm caused by drug use,” says Vumbacca.
Federal Labor backbencher Lisa Singh told the ABC pill testing at music festivals is vital for harm minimisation.
“If we are going to get serious about harm minimisation then pill testing at a health facility at a music festival must be an option,” says Singh
However, not all festivals have the same level of drug use as Groovin The Moo.
Woodford Folk Festival general manager Amanda Jakes says not all festivals are the same.
“Some festivals are even completely alcohol and drug free. I do think it needs to be taken on a case-by-case basis,” says Jakes.
Jakes was not opposed to the idea of having a pill testing program at her festival.
“We do need a bit more information on it but whatever we can do to make sure that people are making the right decisions at festivals,” says Jakes.