Uniting urges the NSW Government to adopt drug checking in the wake of festival overdoses in Melbourne

With the horrific news that eight young people are in a critical condition following suspected drug overdoses at the Hardmission Festival in Melbourne on Saturday night, once again, Uniting is renewing its urgent request that drug checking be urgently implemented in NSW. 

The 2019 coronial inquest (set up to examine the deaths of six young festival goers who died between 2017 and 2019 as a result of MDMA toxicity or complications of use) and the 2020 Ice inquiry in NSW have both recommended drug checking as a way to reduce harm and save lives. 

Why are we still not heeding the advice of the experts?

Just a few months ago drug experts and advocates including, Uniting NSW.ACT, Unharm, the RACGP and the Australian Festivals Association launched an open letter calling on Premier Minns to green light a drug checking pilot in NSW before the summer festival season.  

But Premier Minns continues to delay taking the responsible action the community is calling for, and instead insists on waiting for the yet to be announced drug summit.  

This delay has done and will do nothing to prevent further tragedies this summer. 

With a number of festivals on the horizon including St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, the Electric Gardens Festival and the 46th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, urgent action is required from the NSW Government.

Emma Maiden, General Manager External Relations and Advocacy at Uniting NSW.ACT said: 

‘Our hearts go out to families and friends of those who are currently being treated in hospital. What should have been a day of fun and celebration has instead become one of suffering. This threat to these people’s lives could have been avoided.  

“The summer festival season is well underway and if one life is saved because of drug checking, it is worth it. If one person has a conversation with a health professional for the first time about their drug taking because of drug checking it is worth it.  

“If one person decides not to take the drug they have purchased or to take less, because of drug checking, it is worth it. 

Drug checking is simple and proven. It saves lives. We must not delay.  

“The Ice Inquiry and the Coronial Inquest into Music Festival Deaths both said the same thing. We need to check the drugs if we are to be at all serious about minimising harm, and in some cases saving someone’s life. 

“This is a step the Government can take NOW to prevent fatal overdoses and help people who use drugs to stay safer. 

“These sorts of measures may have helped to prevent these eight people ending up in a critical condition in hospital,” Emma said.

Media contact:  Andrew Bradley
Ph: 0481 064 379 E-mail: abradley@uniting.org