Two deaths at Australian festivals New Year’s Eve weekend reignite debate on pill testing
The recent deaths of two young adults who attended separate New Year’s Eve weekend music festivals have caused the subject of pill testing to regain relevancy in Australia. The deceased, a 20-year-old man who attended Beyond The Valley in Lardner, and a 22-year-old man who went to Lost Paradise in Glenworth Valley both died after taking what police called an “unknown substance.”
The topic of pill testing has been a particularly contentious one in the context of Australian governmental history. Headed by NSW premier and state liberal leader, Gladys Berejiklian, Australia’s government has been — and remains — opposed to pill testing, under the presumption that pill testing promotes drug use. “The government position is quite clear on pill testing,” NSW Planning Minister, Anthony Roberts, told reporters in Sydney following the recent festival deaths. “We oppose the use of illegal drugs at these festivals,” Roberts said.
The New Year’s Eve weekend deaths are not the first incidents to spark a debate on pill testing in Australia. Calls for government supported testing followed two deaths by suspected overdoses at Defqon.1 in September 2018. Berejiklian established a “high level expert panel” immediately after the Defqon.1 deaths, to further educate festival goers on safety at the large scale events. The panel, however, did not foment pill testing.
Despite the “unknown substance” related passing of the two young men this past NYE weekend, Australia currently continues to refuse pill testing across the state, as the Victorian government has confirmed. “Advice from Victoria Police tells us it can give people a false and potentially fatal sense of security about illicit drugs,” a Victorian government spokesperson stated. “If there was a way in which we could ensure that lives were saved through pill testing we would consider it — but there is no evidence provided to the government on that,” Berejiklian told reporters on January 2, corroborating the government spokesperson’s claim that the government had not changed its stance on pill testing.
Figureheads of the Australian Festival Association (AFA) are expected to broach the subject of pill testing in the weeks to come. The AFA was expressly established to ensure increased festival safety for event-goers.