Drug 'Amnesty Bins' To Debut At Music Festivals Next Week, But Questions Remain
The NSW government's new drug amnesty bins will be debuted at New Year's Eve festivals next week, but questions remain about how exactly they will operate.
State premier Gladys Berejiklian announced earlier this month that amnesty bins -- where people can throw away their drugs "without any questions asked" -- would be used as a harm reduction method at music festivals in NSW.
"The police will leave you alone if you've decided that you have made a bad decision and that you want to make sure that you don't expose yourself to that sort of dangerous behaviour," said police minister David Elliott.
He called the bins "an opportunity to discard dangerous substances without fear of prosecution."
Following a coronial inquest into the deaths of six young people who had taken MDMA at music festivals between December 2017 and January 2019, the NSW deputy coroner last month recommended the state allow a pill testing trial this summer -- a suggestion Berejiklian and the government have repeatedly rubbished.
Buried deep in the deputy coroner's recommendations was a call for amnesty bins, saying that "drug harm reduction groups are to be consulted as to where to place those bins to maximise use and minimise harms." Such bins have been in use at festivals around the world for years.
Berejiklian said the bins would be introduced at events before New Year's Eve but did not outline specific details about which events would host them, or how exactly the process would work.
10 daily has been told the Lost Paradise music festival on the Central Coast was planned to be the first event to host the bins. However, that festival was cancelled recently due to bushfire risk in the area.
NYE In The Park, to be held at Sydney's Victoria Park, has confirmed to 10 daily it will use the bins at its festival on December 31.
“Working closely with NSW Health we can confirm we will be rolling out the use of amnesty bins at NYE In The Park 2019 to help ensure the safest possible festival for all," organisers told 10 daily.
The festival, a multi-stage event not far from the city, will feature electronic acts including Girl Talk, Hermitude and Safia.
10 daily understands the bins will not be hosted at the Falls Festival in Byron Bay, while other NYE festivals around NSW did not respond to questions.
NSW Police declined to answer detailed questions about the implementation of the bins at festivals, and how police would interact with people who use the bins. Instead, police referred questions to the NSW Health department.
In a statement, NSW Health said it had studied "a number of domestic and international models" on how to roll the amnesty bins out in NSW.
"The bins are designed to reduce the chance of a panic response ingestion in festivalgoers, where people may rapidly consume a large quantity of drugs on the spot or attempt to unsafely conceal drugs before entry to a festival because they fear being caught with the drugs on their person," a spokesperson told 10 daily.
Some drug overdoses at music festivals had been linked to people swallowing their drugs in fear of being caught in possession.
"Festival patrons will be able to use the bins without fear of being arrested or being monitored by police," the NSW Health spokesperson continued.
"We encourage patrons to use the amnesty bins as well as to seek support and advice from the peer-based harm reduction services and the medical services at the event."
10 daily understands the bins will be placed at a point in the entry to the festival before ticketholders would come into contact with police, giving music fans an opportunity to discard any drugs before meeting officers.
Harm reduction and drug education information will be placed around the bins, while security staff will ensure the bins and drugs remain secure.
"We will work with NSW Police, health experts, other Government agencies and industry stakeholders on these logistics," the NSW Health spokesperson said.
Earlier this month, Berejiklian said the bins were being rolled out in an attempt to stop people panicking when approached by police officers.
"Do not panic if you see police officers. If you see anything that worries you because you've got pills on your person or your friends do, just throw the pills away, no questions asked. Just don't take them because that can kill you or kill one of your friends," Berejiklian said.