This time last year, we wrote about the concerning number of festival-goers who had been found in possession of drugs at a music festival in New South Wales. We also reported on the proposed response to reports of increased drug use amongst the Australian festival industry, with event organisers working closely with police to enforce strict security and detection measures. This week history has repeated itself as we are saddened by the news of yet another death of a young person at the Stereosonic music festival in Adelaide, reportedly from a drug overdose. As the ABC reported, the death is among five others that have occurred in 2015 at Australian festivals from illicit drug use. One of these took place at the Sydney Stereosonic festival only a week earlier. At that event, 120 people were treated for drug-related illness.
As the Huffington Post reported, festival headliners and health advocates alike have supported a strategy of offering drug-checking services at festivals, to inform users of the purity of their drugs, and prevent the consumption of dangerous batches of illegal drugs.
As a parent, I struggle with the notion of offering a condoned service in support of drug use to a young adult, however such services are offered at music festivals in Europe.
As debate rages in Australia about the lack of success of current security and law enforcement approaches to drugs at festivals, health advocates are gaining traction in considering other options for managing drug related risks at events.
The use of ‘shooting galleries’ in Kings Cross in Sydney has been widely lauded for its success in reducing overdoses on the streets. As with the Kings Cross scenario, the same legal dilemma presumably exists for venue managers or land owners of festival sites, for promoting safe drug taking facilities with implied legal impunity while undertaking illegal activities.
I cannot see any professional venue manager in this country assuming such risks in the near future.