University paves way for pill testing at Groovin’ the Moo

Ian Bushnell 23 March 2018
Music festival

The pill deal: Pill-testing to be trialled at Groovin’ the Moo festival.

The University of Canberra has opened the way for Australia’s first pill-testing trial at the Groovin’ the Moo music festival in April after the ACT Government received a proposal from the same group of organisations that planned to provide the service at the Spilt Milk festival last year.

‘The University of Canberra is open to supporting a pill-testing trial at a festival held on University grounds, providing the main stakeholders and relevant authorities are all in agreement,” it said in a statement.

The STA-SAFE consortium was set to conduct a pill test at Spilt Milk in Commonwealth Park with the support of the Government only to see it scuttled by the National Capital Authority after the Canberra Liberals approached their Federal counterparts, and the organisers withdrew.

This time it would be on ACT land and the Government, which supports a controlled trial of pill testing conducted by an independent consortium, has committed to consider the proposal on its merits.

“The proposal needs to be accepted by the University of Canberra, where the festival will be held, and the promoter. We are currently working together to consider the proposal and how it could best work at the Groovin’ the Moo festival,” a spokesperson for Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said.

“The ACT Government is committed to minimising the harms associated with recreational and illicit drug use and will continue to pursue harm reduction measures.”

The Groovin’ the Moo promoters, Cattleyard Productions, said it was still consulting with all stakeholders on the proposed trial.

Gino Vumbaca from Harm Reduction Australia said the consortium was very hopeful given the landowner and the Government, including Health and the police, were on side.

“Everybody who needs to be on board is on board – I don’t know why the promoter would not be. It’s certainly what the patrons want,” he said.

Mr Vumbaca said the police had been involved in discussions and were comfortable with the Government’s position.

“It’s a trial, everyone is acknowledging that it’s a trial, and they’re comfortable with us proceeding is what they have advised us,” he said.

“We’re waiting for an official response from the Government but we’re confident given we’ve met every requirement they’ve requested.”

The consortium would like to have a decision by Easter so it could plan for the 29 April event.

The trial would take the same form as for Spilt Milk with adjustments for the all-ages format of Groovin’ the Moo.

Mr Vumbaca said patrons would be able to have their pills analysed by providing a scraping and be advised of its chemical makeup, its effects and potential harms.

“They certainly won’t be encouraged to take any drugs,” he said.

They would be provided with information about what to do and where to go for medical attention if they did choose to take a pill and there were adverse effects.

Mr Vumbaca said that the experience overseas was that if amnesty bins were provided, up to 40-50 per cent of festival goers discarded their drugs.

The STA-SAFE consortium members are the Australian Drug Observatory, Noffs Foundation, DanceWize, Students for Sensible Drug Policies and Harm Reduction Australia.

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