There's Only One Rational Response To The Death At Knockout Games Of Destiny

Less than three months after two young people died at Defqon.1 festival, we’ve seen another terrible event.

This time 19-year-old Callum Brosnan died after a suspected drug overdose at the Knockout Games of Destiny dance party over the weekend.

It has triggered all the responses we’re used to hearing -- young people should be getting the message, just say no, drugs are bad. It’s the same messaging almost word-for-word that we got after Defqon.1.

READ MORE: Police Name 19-Year-Old Who Died At Sydney Dance Party

What we’re not getting from the government is a rational, pragmatic response -- like, say, pill testing.

Instead, we’ve seen the Premier rule it out yet again, using the same excuses that it gives a green light to drug use, and tells festival-goers that drugs are “safe”.

READ MORE: I Would Welcome An Ice Injecting Room Next To My Son's School

Despite how many times we’ve said that the doctor in the tent tells every single young person they see that “the safest way to take this drug is not at all” -- the misinformation continues.

Source: Facebook (HSU)

Following the election result in Victoria, you’d think the Liberal Party would drop the type of tactics that did nothing, if not hindered their chances. You’d imagine that they would realise that the “just say no” slogans have not only failed but that it is fatal politics.

READ MORE: Why The Libs Were Wrong On Safe Injecting Rooms

Political parties that are fighting against harm reduction measures are engaged in a losing battle. But their losses, like that in Victoria, aren’t just political. We’re losing too many young lives along the way.

Increasingly, the opinions against pill testing are just that. They are opinions versus the evidence. And the evidence is solid.

Pill testing reduces harmful drug use. This was confirmed by surveys of patrons at pill testing services in Austria, the UK, Canada and the Netherlands.

It is also effective at linking a hard-to-reach demographic with important health information they are otherwise unlikely to seek out.

(L-R) NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services Troy Grant. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett).

The way that some politicians want to beat down the data as though it were fake news is almost Trumpian.

On the other hand, people like us realised long ago that facts alone clearly won’t save young lives. Science and truth doesn’t always win. The task of our movement to bring pill testing to every festival around Australia is entirely a political one.

Despite the fact that the Greens are very supportive of pill testing, and the NSW Liberal Government are vocally against it, this is not simply a progressive issue. This is a health issue, and it demands bipartisan support.

There are members of the NSW Liberal Party who want Pill Testing -- who want to save lives and reduce these hospitalisations.

But they are hamstrung. They are being bound by their masters and by a disastrous policy called “the war on drugs”. They don’t know that a majority of Australians want Pill Testing -- that parents want it.

However, despite their vehement opposition to pill testing, the government does need some recognition for flagging the replacement of court attendances with fines at festivals -- a significant concession that criminalisation has been ineffective.

So progress is being made, but when we lose another young life, it feels like an uphill battle.

Despite the overwhelming evidence for pill testing reducing harm across the world, we’re not advocating that it’s the silver bullet. We’re simply saying that it’s one solution against the backdrop of young Australians dying and being hospitalised during festivals.

We are not expecting the NSW government to turn around and adopt pill testing tomorrow. But we are hoping they can drop their ideological opposition to it and take a more balanced approach, listening to the science instead of dismissing it out of hand.


Matt Noffs is the CEO of the Noffs Foundation. Shelley Smith is the Campaigns and Policy Coordinator at the Noffs Foundation. Both are members of the Take Control campaign for Safer, Saner Drug Laws

Main Image: Facebook