The Ultra Australia dance music festival has launched a push to hold a pill testing trial at its upcoming Sydney event in February, following five deaths at Australian festivals in the last six months.
Ultra has joined forces with Pill Testing Australia (formerly STA-SAFE) and the NSW Users And AIDS Association (NUAA) to request the NSW Government allow the trial to run at Sydney’s Parramatta Park on Sunday, 24th February.
If the trial proposal is approved, it will be the second major trial of its kind in Australia, and will follow the same model as Groovin The Moo’s successful trial in Canberra in April 2018, which discovered “deadly” contaminants in a number of samples tested.
Ultra Australia operator Dave Rubin said that while pill testing is welcome at the festival, education is also key.
“We want to enable patrons to make better decisions,” he said.
“We do not condone drug usage, but we must acknowledge that it is present in all forms of society not just music events. The zero-tolerance stance does not work. This approach is not currently successful despite working tirelessly with the police to keep drugs out of our events and we need to acknowledge this goes beyond policing and is a health issue.
“We also want our patrons to know they can seek help or medical assistance without fear of retribution. By offering them knowledge about what they are taking, and the risks, we believe being armed with the information will help them form a better opinion and hopefully make smarter choices.
“We will always work within the confines of the law, but the laws need to adapt to enable us to provide a safer environment.”
The NUAA is an agency funded by NSW Health, and runs the DanceWize NSW program promoting festival safety. The organisation’s CEO, Mary Ellen Harrod, said “education is the key to keeping people safe” at music festivals.
“Pill testing is one measure that will support education and allow young people to pause and consider their options,” she said.
“At the moment, it’s legal to buy reagent testing kits but we don’t allow best practice pill testing, a situation that makes no sense. We know pill testing works from the successful Australian trial and years of overseas experience. There is almost universal agreement that we need to do more to keep young people safe and the Ultra festival is the perfect opportunity launch a trial of this measure in NSW.”
The NSW Government is yet to respond to the request for a pill testing trial at Ultra Australia.
Today’s announcement comes after a number of Australia’s biggest music festivals released an open letter calling on state and territory governments to allow pill testing trials at local events, in an attempt to prevent drug-related deaths like those recently seen following FOMO Festival, Lost Paradise and Beyond The Valley.
Ultra Australia will hit Melbourne and Sydney in February, featuring sets from the likes of The Chainsmokers, Marshmello and Martin Garrix.