Updated: Dec 16, 2020
According to research 98.4% of music festival attendees reported they had used illicit drugs in the last 12 months at a music festival.
Whilst organisers promote a ‘zero tolerance policy’, to which they implement harm reductionstrategies such as, free water, shade, chillout zones, crowd ‘save a mate’ peers and provide drug related information. However, despite all these measures, attendees continue to use illicit drugs.
Strategies that promote zero tolerance on drug use, such as significant police presence, sniffer dogs, and random drug searches have consistently proven to be ineffective at stopping festival goers from consuming illicit drugs. In fact, the 2019 NSW Coronial Inquest into Deaths at Festivals, found that these measures led to double-dosing, bodily concealment, and hasty ingestion.
Since we cannot stop festival revellers from consuming illicit substances, we must provide a better way to care for these individuals when they become ill.
While the Coronial Inquest made several recommendations, including the highly debated strategy of pill testing, they have yet to be implemented on a broad scale.
Following the Coronial Inquest, the NSW Ministry of Health developed a list of “high risk” festivals and placed many of the States most enjoyed and well-attended festivals on this list.
The additional burdens placed on organisers became too costly to implement and affected their ability to obtain the required insurances, and the now mandatory Festival Licencing, forcing some to cancel their events, sparking the “Don’t Kill Live Music” rally in Sydney.
After reeling from the impacts of the Coronial Inquest, COVID-19 came along. It has crippled the live performance industry. Many arts workers, artists, organisers, and industry-related organisations were all left without work. Many of these are small businesses or sole traders. According to the Live Entertainment Industry Forum, the economic output lost is in the order of $23.6b.
The introduction of the Gardian EMS solution will become the benchmark standard for the provision of onsite medical care. This innovative solution will assist in reducing drug related harm and limit drug related deaths.
Australian Music Festival Attendees: A national overview of demographics, drug use patterns, policing experiences and help seeking behaviour, DPMP Bulletin No 28
 The principles of harm reduction accept that no matter the rigour of messaging around the individual risks and dangers of substance use, there will always be people who take or experiment with substances. As such, it is important to ensure that individual harms associated with substance use are minimised wherever possible.