Joining calls from medical practitioners and former members of parliament, Pyrenees Shire mayor Robert Vance believes pill testing should go ahead at the Rainbow Serpent music festival.
In Cr Vance’s opinion - the matter has not been discussed by council - it has the potential to save lives.
“Pills don’t wash with me, I don’t agree with drug taking, and I’m sure my co-councillors would agree,” he said.
“But if one life is saved by testing the pills, it’s got to be a good thing.”
The annual five-day dance event, which attracts about 18,000 attendees, is pushing lawmakers to allow pill testing to take place.
A planned demonstration at the festival was cancelled after Victoria Police raised concerns.
Pill testing involves people handing over their substance to a trained expert, who chemically analyses a small portion.
If any contaminants are found, the person is warned – at the Canberra trial in 2018, some drugs were found to include antihistamines, opioids, and toothpaste, and Harm Reduction Australia’s report notes knowing what is inside the drugs can be a “significant and positive intervention”.
Testing also involves use of a legal waiver which discharges organisers and the testers from any liability.
Two people have died at Rainbow Serpent since 2012, while five people have died at Australian music festivals in the last six months.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, representing 17,000 practitioners, is the latest medical body to support pill testing.
An open letter to NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian sent on Friday said the evidence justifies the introduction of pill testing trials.
Cr Vance said the festival brought huge economic benefits to the entire region, and the organisers are “very responsible, and trying to do the right thing”.
“It does have a few problems, as does anything that attracts 18,000 people,” he said.
“It brings a lot of money into not only Lexton, but Beaufort and Amphitheatre, the Raglan CFA and Burnbank CFA, and different community bodies.
“They probably leave in excess of $100,000 amongst different community groups annually - from that side, it’s positive.”
Ahead of the gates opening for the 22nd year next week, Rainbow Serpent organisers have announced 15 community groups that will share $15,000 in grants.
These range from brand new Country Womens Association branches in Raglan and Landsborough, which will each receive $500 to get off the ground, to a huge collaborative mural in Beaufort.
The festival raises the money by selling special programs each year, which typically sell out by the second day.
The Beaufort mural will involve Indigenous artists designing a work for a 15 metre by four metre wall on a supermarket, with primary and secondary school students assisting by creating accompanying art installations – the festival will contribute $2500 for materials.
Food is Free will receive $500 to help disadvantaged people access fresh food in Ballarat, and the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation’s Youth Heritage Connection Art Class will move a step closer to a 2019 exhibition with $1000.
The Pyrenees Art Exhibition, now in its 13th year, will receive $500 to support local artists, and the Pyrenees Choir will be able to employ a conductor for its monthly rehearsals.
$2500 will go to an innovative resilience program will run at the Waubra Primary School, and an empowering support project for people undergoing cancer treatment which focuses on restoring confidence and countering appearance-related side effects, Look Good Feel Better, will receive $1000.
Eureka Mums’ Give to Grow project, which redistributes donated nursery equipment and children’s clothing, will also receive $1000.
Ballarat Roller Derby, the Beaufort Walkfest event in April, fireworks in Moonambel, and sets of new picnic tables and a barbecue at the Avoca pool are also successful projects.
“Rainbow Serpent is, proudly, an established member of the Pyrenees community that has welcomed our patrons for over 20 years and that community deserves to benefit from our presence in the region,” festival spokesperson Tim Harvey said.
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