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Pill testing on the cards for Qld music festivals

The Palaszczuk Government is considering backing a pill testing trial to curb drug overdoses at music festivals after the state’s mental health chief said such activities contributed to saving lives.

Aug 17, 2022, updated Aug 17, 2022
Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath has told state parliament several issues must be considered before any trial goes ahead and no decision had been made.

“Is it in the best interest of individuals and festival goers, and will it lead to less deaths, less injuries and less drug use?” D’Ath said in response to a question from Greens MP Michael Berkman in parliament.

“We will give this proper consideration. It will be based on evidence and we will ensure we are looking not just nationally but internationally as to the best practice in relation to this.

“We have to work through these issues and what we do very carefully. We will give this proper consideration. It will be based on evidence.”

Pill testing allows people to test illicit drugs at a site to find out what’s actually in it.

Drug reform advocates says pill testing sites should be set up in places where drug use commonly occurs, such as music festivals, clubs or dance parties. Calls for pill-testing to be allowed at such events rose after a series of drug-related deaths at music festivals in 2019.

Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic told a Budget estimates hearing that there was “organisational capacity” to offer pill testing at various festivals and work was being done on licensing organisations to carry it out.

“I think there is evidence, both from other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally, which would suggest that having drug-checking facilities, particularly temporary ones or even fixed sites, can contribute to saving lives,” he said.

Asked by Berkman at the hearing about any work being done to introduce pill testing, Prof Frkovic said: “I think this has been on the agenda and there has been discussion around this. I think there has been some progress in terms of being able to get what I am calling broadly some level of licensing for organisations to be able to do that.”

Australia’s first testing site, a six-month pilot program to allow people to test drugs and pills free of charge, has opened in Canberra.

The ACT government says it will help weed out dangerous substances and provide an opportunity for harm minimisation and counselling to encourage a reduction in drug use.

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