ACT Government to consider directly funding pill testing at future events

Lachlan Roberts 1 May 2019 20

Meegan Fitzharris stated that pill testing is “harm minimisation at its core”. Photo: George Tsotsos

The ACT Government said it will consider directly funding pill testing at future events after organisers announced that Sunday’s music festival would be their last free trial in the ACT.

The Groovin the Moo trial at EPIC was hailed as “overwhelmingly successful” after seven people surrendered their illicit drugs after learning that they contained potentially lethal substances.

Around 234 festivalgoers out of the 24,000-strong crowd took part in the trial, with 171 drugs tested, more than double of the 85 pills tested at last year’s event.

The service, run by Pill Testing Australia, was only the second time pill testing has been offered at a music festival in Australia, following the first successful trial held at last year’s GTM in Canberra.

ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the figures showed a demand for the service at events such as music festivals which is indicative of people wanting to make informed choices.

Ms Fitzharris stated on Monday afternoon (29 April) that pill testing is “harm minimisation at its core” at high-risk environments like music festivals.

“I was pleased to see there was a significant increase in the uptake of people attending the service,” she said.

“I believe pill testing is effective and I am really pleased that our robust approach is able to contribute to the national policy debate and hopefully progress drug policy here in Australia.”

Pill Testing Australia stated they would like to continue testing in the ACT but could not continue to self-fund. The ACT Government said it would consider direct funding for the service next year and did not rule out the possibility of a permanent site within the ACT.

The Australian National University will conduct an independent evaluation of the trial which will be released in the coming months, which Ms Fitzharris said will contribute to the evidence base for pill testing both locally and nationally, and help inform future policy decisions of government including other opportunities for pill testing in the future.

“We will have a number of options about the extent to which pill testing is a regular feature of music festivals here in the ACT or potentially a more regular feature of our drug policy and harm minimisation approach, which can include funding provided to Pill Testing Australia,” Ms Fitzharris said.

“Government funding may be considered because we already fund harm minimisation activities. Every single government of every single political persuasion fund harm minimisation measures in communities.

“The safe injecting room in Sydney is are a harm minimisation measure. Organisations that work with drug users today that are by and large funded by state governments and federal governments.

“Whether the ACT Government will choose to directly fund pill testing is an option that we will consider.”

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury believes Canberra is proof that pill testing can help save lives. File photo.

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said the Government should consider pill testing outside of music festivals, further reducing the potential harm from drug use.

“Canberra is proof that pill testing can help save young lives,” he said.

“We know that the war on drugs hasn’t worked. We have to accept that despite all the efforts on enforcement and education, some young people still take illicit drugs. The right thing to do is to try to minimise the tragic harm and deaths that can result.

“The efforts from groups such as Pill Testing Australia, together with the ACT Government, ACT Policing and ACT Health to realise pill testing in the ACT, marks a major achievement in realising a harm reduction approach.”

Mr Rattenbury said the Greens will continue to advocate for pill testing at all Canberra music festivals and he will make the case for pill testing at festivals across the country to his Federal Greens colleagues.

“So far, Pill Testing Australia has donated their time to ensure that fewer young people come to harm as a result of their illicit drug use,” he said.

“We need to find a model that makes this sustainable, whether through Government funding, philanthropic support or contributions from festival organisers, given how important pill testing is as a public health measure.

“In potentially saving young lives, the Greens believe this is money well spent.”

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20 Responses to ACT Government to consider directly funding pill testing at future events
Robbie MP Robbie MP 4:55 am 05 May 19

Ridiculous, how about not doing drugs!

Mary Kingsford Mary Kingsford 7:39 pm 04 May 19

You watch, it will be another addition to the rates.

Dave Lenihan Dave Lenihan 5:50 pm 04 May 19

Minister for Geocon has no idea.

Mick Johnson Mick Johnson 5:16 pm 04 May 19

why should tax payers pay for a service at a private event, let the organisers pay for it.

Steve Quasi Hoppitt Steve Quasi Hoppitt 2:24 pm 02 May 19

Hopefully arrests follow positive results, not just some soft-on forum of counseling.

Taru Morton Taru Morton 8:23 am 02 May 19

If they have money to buy the pills, they should then pay for the testing themselves.

Corey Karl Corey Karl 7:49 am 02 May 19

If it’s the saviour of all pill poppers everywhere..... why do they make you sign a waiver before you test it ??

    Ian Don Ian Don 3:17 pm 04 May 19

    is that difficult to understand? Testing them isn't saying it is safe to take them but letting the user know what the component in that pill are. From that the user can make their decision to dispose or keep it.

Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 7:43 pm 01 May 19

Why don’t the drug users pay for the testing themselves? Why should the ratepayer be picking up the, er, “tab”?

Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 7:13 pm 01 May 19

About bloody time!

Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 6:52 pm 01 May 19

About bloody time!

Roberta Lynne Anning Roberta Lynne Anning 6:22 pm 01 May 19

I know someone that went to this, they witnessed 2 people overdose. Didn't see that reported anywhere.

    Cath Louise Cath Louise 7:32 pm 04 May 19

    Roberta Lynne Anning could have OD on anything, may not have used the service, plus a test doesn't mean the pill isn't still dangerous.

    Do you see reported incidents at other festivals? It only makes the news of people die

Guy Noble Guy Noble 1:13 pm 01 May 19

I agree with mandatory pill testing at events but the gov should not pay,,, make it a legal requirement that events need pill testing facilities at the event paid for by the promotor

    Tamara Curtis Gordon Tamara Curtis Gordon 8:33 pm 01 May 19

    100÷ agree, the cost could be included in the ticket price so the user pays

    Ricky Toms Ricky Toms 1:22 pm 02 May 19

    Guy Noble you’ll pay a lot more trying to save them in hospital

HardBallGets HardBallGets 12:37 pm 01 May 19

Good. Don’t mess it up.

Kent Street Kent Street 11:30 am 01 May 19

I heard Mr Rattenbury on ABC radio news this morning saying that, when young people are taken away in ambulances, the taxpayer pays for that too.

Does that mean that we, as individuals, don’t need to pay the $800-$900 invoices that we receive for these services? Or should we redirect them to ACT government?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 1:51 pm 02 May 19

    Excellent point (don’t expect a response).

Grimm Grimm 10:47 am 01 May 19

Great. Normalising and encouraging the use of illegal substances.

It’s not like they are good for you if they are pure either.

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