By The Conversation
The much-awaited NSW coroner’s report into music festival deaths was released today.
In the report, Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame recommends pill testing, a ban on sniffer dogs and a reduction in the number of strip searches, among other measures to prevent deaths.
These evidence-based strategies for harm reduction are to be applauded. But it remains to be seen if the NSW government will change its stance on drug use and harm reduction to implement the coroner’s recommendations.
The inquest examined the deaths of six young people who died during or just after attending music festivals in NSW between December 2017 and January 2019.
All died as a result of taking MDMA or ecstasy. Five of the six also had other drugs in their system.
In the report, Grahame said:
It can be hard for the community to grapple with some of the underlying issues when drug use is illegal and drug users are stigmatised. It is difficult to properly explain the potential risks to young people if our only permissible message is “just say no”. While we continue to hide the true extent of drug use, it remains inherently more dangerous.
However, Grahame noted the NSW government had already put in place, since these deaths, a range of measures including more formalised emergency medical responses at festivals and clinical guidelines on how to manage drug incidents before the person reaches hospital.
She also noted festival organisers had implemented strategies that improved safety since these deaths.