Australian Festival Association: “Out Of Touch” Drug Policies Are “Needlessly Endangering Lives”

The Australian Festival Association has sent an open letter to Australia’s state political leaders, pleading for collaboration with the festival industry and a researched-based approach to drug law.

The letter is the first action the industry body has taken, coming just three weeks after the AFA was formed on December 20 last year. 

The AFA is headed by the founders of Splendour In The Grass, Listen Out, Laneway, CMC Rocks and GTM.

Festival organisers have used the letter to recognise the tragedy of deaths at festivals, state the complexity of drug use as a social issue, and call for several reforms that are proactive, not reactive.

You can read the full letter here:

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the deaths at Australian festivals during the recent holiday period and our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. Our thoughts are also with the medical, festival, production, security and law enforcement staff who were on the ground when these tragedies occurred.

Drug use is a complex issue and the current policies and strategies of our state and territory governments are needlessly endangering lives. Be it abuse of prescription medications, MDMA use at festivals or the devastating impact of ice [methamphetamine] on some of our regional communities, drug use is a national health issue that impacts many Australian families. We need to better understand drug use behaviour, identify significant intervention points, better coordinate between regulators, health, police, businesses and broader communities, and make sure that the health and safety of Australians is the ultimate priority.

As festival promoters, the last thing we want is someone to be hurt under our care. We need to be able to legally implement preventative strategies, not just reactive ones, and include any harm minimization tools that are available. We believe, and have evidence to support, that a combination of robust harm minimization strategies will help Australians make safer choices and reduce the harmful impacts of drug use on festival-goers and the broader community. This necessarily involves a collaborative, multi-layered approach of drug education, peer-to-peer support, pill-testing, health services and policing.

We ask state and territory governments across Australia to:

Establish on-going state-based Music Festival Regulation Roundtables to ensure better relationships between regulators, medical experts, promoters, emergency service providers and law enforcement

Utilise the significant experience and expertise of the Australian Festivals Association (AFA) – the national festivals representative body – and appoint AFA members to Regulation Roundtables across the states and territories

Work with health, festival and drug experts to develop pill-testing trials

Adopt an evidence-based, health-focused approach to drug regulation and commission further research into recreational drug use

Collaborate to convene a national drug summit to allow in-depth, meaningful, expert-led discussion around drug use

We do not believe that pill-testing is the only answer. But it is a crucial part of a broader harm reduction strategy that prioritises people’s health and safety, over criminality or laws. Encouraging drug abstinence instead of education is out-of-touch, proven to be ineffective and unnecessarily risking lives. Young people deserve better. Older people deserve better. Families deserve better.

We implore Premier Berejiklian, Premier Andrews, Premier Marshall, Premier McGowan, Premier Palaszczuk, Premier Hodgman, Chief Minister Gunner and Chief Minister Barr to be open to better ideas and to work with experts on making festivals safer for everyone.”

You can send your state or territory representative your thoughts on drug law reform (or a copy of the letter) by following these links:

NSW: Premier Berejiklian
VIC: Premier Andrews
SA: Premier Marshall
WA: Premier McGowan
QLD: Premier Palaszczuk
TAS: Premier Hodgman
NT: Chief Minister Gunner
ACT: Chief Minister Barr

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