Rainbow Serpent Festival defended by punters

Defense: Rainbow Serpent Festival punters have given their support to the festival which received harsh criticism from police on Thursday.  Picture: Justin Whitelock.

Defense: Rainbow Serpent Festival punters have given their support to the festival which received harsh criticism from police on Thursday. Picture: Justin Whitelock.

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PUNTERS have gone in to bat for the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Lexton after police released a scathing report about crowd behaviour on Thursday.

In The Courier’s online survey asking if the event should be cancelled, 92 per cent of the more than 6000 responses said the festival should continue to go ahead.

Twenty-three year-old Sarah Clark from the Dandenong Ranges attended the festival for the second time in 2016, and said while drugs were present at the festival, they were not the primary focus of the event.

“Rainbow is a place that puts emphasis on community and doing the right thing by each other.” 

Ms Clark said while incidents of sexual assault were concerning, they were more a result of the size of the event than festival culture.

Another attendee, Stella Silagy, said the festival attendees were “some of the most kind-hearted and amazing people (she had) ever met.”

“To say it would be a shame for the festival to be canceled because of the select few who don't understand what the festival is about respect is a severe understatement.”

General manager of independent record label Placebo Records Nathan Gunn said Rainbow Serpent was an “amazing music and arts event (and) there aren’t many of its kind in Victoria.”

“It's hard to find a festival where there isn't at least one drug offence. People do the wrong thing and that's how it is.  The people doing the right thing don't deserve to have their fun ruined.”

Now in it’s 19th year, the four-day festival attracted over 16,000 punters from January 22 to 25.

The comments come after police delivered a critical review of crowd behaviour on Thursday, with 40 drivers being detected with drugs in their system and a further four sexual assaults being recorded.

CHECK OUT OUR PHOTO GALLERY FROM RAINBOW SERPENT 2016 HERE

While some festival-goers suggested the rate of 40 drug-drivers out of a crowd of over 16,000 was a relatively good result, Inspector Bruce Thomas said only 313 drug tests had been performed, meaning around one in eight drivers returned a positive test.

“The amount of people driving with drugs in their system is frightening,” Inspector Thomas said. “I’m charged with the responsibility of preserving life and property in the Pyrenees Shire, and it’s very hard to do this when rampant drug use is occurring.”

Inspector Thomas said the notion that it was a small minority were giving the event a bad name was “a myth perpetuated by people at the festival.”

Inspector Thomas said he would be discussing the future of the event with organisers and local council.