Victoria Police hold firm against festival pill testing

EXCITEMENT: Crowds lined up for the Hop Temple local presale of the Spilt Milk Festival. Picture: Adam Trafford.
EXCITEMENT: Crowds lined up for the Hop Temple local presale of the Spilt Milk Festival. Picture: Adam Trafford.

On the eve of one of Ballarat's biggest ever events, the Spilt Milk music festival Victoria Police are holding firm that it will not support pill testing of any kind.

Spilt Milk is set to play host to upwards of 23,000 people at Victoria Park on Saturday, 30 November and recent research has highlighted the high percentage of drug use at music festivals.

Despite the recent recommendations from both the Victorian and New South Wales state coroners, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent says the body will in no way support the push for pill testing at festivals.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Let us know what you think about pill testing at the bottom of the story.

"The challenge here is the perception that some of these drugs are safe," he said at a Music Festival Industry Forum in Melbourne on Thursday.

"We're just mindful not to create an environment where people think drugs are safe.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent

"All drugs are dangerous... they're not made by chemists, they're often made by people who failed year 10.

"Victoria Police is not supportive of pill testing for the reasons that I've just raised."

Deputy Commissioner Nugent along with other members of Victoria Police spent Thursday talking with the Australian Festival Association and other drug and alcohol experts in hopes of finding common ground in the areas of harm minimisation ahead of the fast approaching summer festival season.

Australian Festival Association General Manager Julia Robinson said while the AFA doesn't share Victoria Police's view on pill testing, she was excited to work closely on identifying ways to potentially minimise harm at festivals.

"We welcome this opportunity to work with all stakeholders including Victoria Police and the music festival stakeholders in this industry," she said.

"We don't really necessarily expect to agree on everything but we have the shared aim to keep our patrons safe this summer. We want to work together and collaborate to achieve those shared goals.

"We also want to encourage all of the festival organisers to be open, as well as the agencies to be open to considering all elements of potential change in the industry to achieve those shared outcomes of patron safety.

"The Australian Festival Association supports pill testing... we are open to any type of trial and we are open to working with the agencies involved with a trial that would be supported but all of those key agencies."

Mrs Robinson added it is almost impossible to remove drugs entirely from music festivals and pointed towards a greater safety strategy rather than a deterrence strategy.

"We need to take the approach that harm minimisation ultimately rests on the foundation that drug use is a fact, that's why harm minimisation exists.

I think that if we can't keep drugs outside of a maximum security prison it's going to be hard to keep them out of a music festival.

Australian Festival Association General Manager Julia Robinson

The Courier reported on Wednesday upwards of 15,000 punters at Spilt Milk could be drug effected according to a recent study from the University of Wollongong Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute.

Chair of Australasian College for Emergency Medicine Public Health Committee Diana Egerton-Warburton pointed towards the fact that it is not simply drugs that cause overdoses at festivals, rather the mixing of drugs with other contributing factors.

"We see a lot of harm coming out of music festivals and as the deputy commissioner said it really is because of a combination of environmental factors, drugs and alcohol," she said.

This story Police hold firm against festival pill testing first appeared on The Courier.