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Pill testing rolled out at Easter music festival in Queensland

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Pill testing rolled out at Easter music festival Rabbits Eat Lettuce in Queensland
An Australian-first pill-testing initiative was rolled at bush festival Rabbits Eat Lettuce which took place over the Easter weekend.

According to the Queensland Government, this is the first time onsite pill testing has been deployed at a multi-day music festival.

The Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival had two deaths in 2019, with a coronial inquest finding that the pair had multiple drugs in their system at the time of their deaths, including potentially lethal amounts of MDMA.

Over the long weekend, 257 festival attendees had drugs tested, with some drugs discarded at the point of pill testing and other attendees saying they would reconsider their drug use or take less of the substance.

Delivered by Pill Testing Australia, the pill testing initiative is designed to reduce harm and was accompanied by consultation with a harm reduction worker which aimed to influence behaviour.

“While there were no ‘high risk’ substances found over the weekend, there were some unexpected results,” said Stephanie Tzanetis, executive officer and festival service delivery manager at Pill Testing Australia.

The Queensland state government is investing almost $1 million in pill testing and drug checking over the next two years.

“I want to be very clear that there is no safe way to take illicit drugs, but we can take steps to reduce harm and help people make more informed choices,” said the state’s health minister, Shannon Fentiman.

“In 2021, there were over 2,200 drug-related deaths in Australia, which is 2,200 too many. That is why this initiative is important.

“The drug checking service provided health advice and harm reduction information to hundreds of festival goers this weekend, meaning that those who did decide to take drugs did so in a more informed way.

“Many participants said that they would reconsider or take less of the substances they had in their possession, which is an excellent outcome.

“I encourage other jurisdictions across the country to follow our lead to keep their communities safe,” said Fentiman.

Drugs at music festivals have been a huge – and, at times, existential – issue for organisers in the years before the pandemic, particularly in New South Wales, with the Australian Festival Association founded off the back of ‘the war on music festivals launched by former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’.

The former NSW premier was staunchly against pill testing at music festivals, despite the state experiencing a spate of deaths, leading to a coronial inquest of a collection of them.

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