This week, Pill Testing Australia have launched a new campaign advocating for the NSW government to reconsider the risks that refusing to allow for pill testing poses as we head into the 2019-20 Australian Festival Season.
The 60-second advert follows a young woman as she prepares for a day out at a music festival, with her completing her preparations by placing a blindfold over her face as she leaves the house. Following the girl as she makes her way to the festival, we see her narrowly avoid being hit by a car, but is evidently oblivious to the danger. Then in meeting up with her friends, we see that they too are all blindfolded as they head into the festival together, the advert urging parents to contact their local MP to “tell them it’s time to reduce the harm” as the advert closes.
The glaringly poignant TV spot comes just weeks after the NSW Deputy Coroner, Harriet Grahame, released findings from a coronial inquest that was completed earlier this year into six MDMA-related deaths at NSW music festivals. Addressing the NSW Coroner’s Court, Grahame stated,
“I am in no doubt whatsoever that there is sufficient evidence to support a drug-checking trial in NSW. In my view, the evidence is compelling.”
The Deputy Coroner further urged the Berijiklian government to allow for pill testing at festivals as a means of harm mitigation, and to scrap sniffer dogs and instruct police to not punish those who are found to be in possession of drugs for personal use.
Despite multiple industry authorities now having spoken up about the benefits to pill testing, which has seen another successful trial most recently at this May’s Groovin The Moo festival in Canberra, NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian still believes there to be “insufficient evidence” to prove this.
Julie Tam, whose son Joshua’s death was one of six investigated by the NSW Deputy Coroner, found the Premier’s dismissal of pill testing to be ‘disrespectful’, telling The Guardian,
“You sort of think, in many ways, it’s very much a disrespect to the loss of our children … It’s disappointing to think that following the amount of effort and money invested into the coronial inquest into the deaths of all of our children that the Premier has said she’s basically not interested.”
As of this year, festivals in NSW have been subjected to surmounting pressure from the Berijiklian government in light of the growing discussion surrounding drug-related deaths, with the introduction of a strict new licensing regime in February seeing the closure of events such as Psyfari and Mountain Sounds music festivals. Punters and festival industry bodies in NSW have grown increasingly frustrated with the measures put in place by the government in response to the debate surrounding pill testing, seeing the taxing of events and increased police presences as the government being more interested in their bottom line rather than harm mitigation procedures.
While this initial licensing regime was scrapped as soon as September of this year due to many festival promoters and organisers seeking to move their events out of state in light of the changes, legislation to reinstate a new, however just as strict, licensing scheme was brought forth to NSW government in October, targeting events that the government view to be “high risk”.
Premier Gladys Berijiklian urged the Labor, Greens and Shooters Party to “put aside politics” and support the state government in enforcing this new regime, however Greens party spokesperson Caty Faehrmann has stated that the NSW government needed to accept the reality of drug use and look further into reducing harm,
“The government needs to acknowledge that it can never stop people taking drugs, but it can reduce the risk of people dying from them.”
NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay has also spoken up on the matter in light of the Deputy Coroner’s findings in November, stating that were Labor in power they would trial pill testing.
Featured Image Source: screengrab from Pill Testing Australia advert, pilltestingaustralia.com.au