Mum’s message as Sydney music festival deaths renew push for pill testing

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A heartbroken mother has begged the NSW government to start pill testing at music festivals following the deaths of two men on the opening weekend of the summer music festival season.

Two men in their twenties died after leaving the Knockout Outdoor festival at Sydney Showground on Saturday and police are waiting for autopsy reports, with speculation the men died after taking illicit drugs.

Jen Ross-King’s daughter Alex died following a festival overdose in 2019.

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Ross-King told 7NEWS she knows how the families must be feeling.

“I’m so sorry to the families of the two young people that have passed,” she said.

“Young people just please don’t take drugs, please.”

She called on the state government to take stronger action towards harm reduction.

“They need to implement harm reduction strategies within music festival environments within this summer — now,” she said.

“These are not experts, they’re politicians. Please, I am begging you to make the change.”

Premier Chris Minns has previously resisted calls for pill testing at music festivals, which only happens at festivals in the ACT.

Festival-goers provide a sample of their pill to analysts stationed at the event who are able to provide details about what is in the pill and the associated risks.

Trials showed many people who were told their pill was dangerous chose to throw it away.

Greens MP Cate Faerhmann and drug support advocates are calling for immediate action to avert more deaths during the festival season, saying there is enough evidence to show pill testing prevents harm.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that governments don’t seem to act unless there’s a crisis but then all they’ve done after the crisis is commission reports and then not act on the recommendations,” Faerhmann said on Monday.

“It’s going to be a very hot summer and it’s going to be a very dangerous summer, unless Chris Minns acts.”

In NSW, police officers can undertake either general or strip searches if they have a reasonable suspicion of illicit drug possession.

Faerhmann criticised the police use of sniffer dogs, saying the tactic was known to increase risky behaviour as festival-goers panicked and ingested all their drugs at once.

“We can’t stop people taking drugs at music festivals, so let’s focus on making everyone safer,” she said.

Family Drug Support chief executive Tony Trimingham said festival deaths due to drugs were preventable but the issue had become political.

He begged the premier to take up an offer from his organisation to provide free pill testing.

“We are the experts, we know what we are doing, we have the experience and we’ve done it before,” he said.

“We know the majority of the public support pill testing because the public realise that it could be them getting that terrible knock on the door about their loved one.”

– With 7NEWS

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