Politics

“We Did It”: Here’s What Happened At Australia’s First Pill-Testing Operation

And here's what was in the pills...

The first numbers are in for Groovin The Moo’s pill testing experiment, and lives may have been saved after the trial operation found potentially deadly substances in two different samples.

Matt Noffs, one of the people behind the Australia-first trial, also let on that half of the drugs tested included substances other than drugs:

Matt Noff told Junkee the trial was a significant step forward in drug harm reduction in Australia.

“When festival-goers discovered that what they had differed from their expectation, they were grateful,” he said. “And that’s a big thing — we were able to identify two highly toxic substances, and a significant amount of drugs that differed from people’s expectations. They had everything, from paint, to lactose, to milk powder and toothpaste.”

He said police were happy with the stall’s presence.

“Police at the end of the night were saying how happy they were — there were only three arrests. The police were so respectful. Young people can trust in the ACT that police actually do want to see young people safe.”

Detective acting superintendent Rohan Smith told 2CC radio this morning that despite the pill testing trial, police went on with business as usual.

“During the festival we took four males and one female into custody in relation to anti-social behaviour, being intoxicated,” the detective said. “We have one person that will be summonsed to appear at the ACT Magistrates Court in relation to drugs.”

A lot of detail was put into the pill testing plan to ensure that it would executed smoothly on the day.

The stall was a standalone tent right next to Groovin The Moo’s medical centre. The tent had trained drug counselling staff and an amnesty bin for drug disposal.

And it also collected heaps of data: the trial will be used as evidence by policymakers who decide whether or not to roll out the program at other music festivals.

And that’s what STA-SAFE, the group that advocated for the pill testing trial, are going to be focussed on next.

“The first time I called for pill testing was when Georgina Bartter died in 2014,” Noff said. “It’s been four years — these things take a long time. It’s about finding police who are happy to work with you, and who want to see change.”

“If we need to run a strong campaign like we did over the last month, it doesn’t matter what hurdles are thrown at us, we can do it.”