Groovin The Moo festival has decided to pull its free pill-testing service after insurers backed out just days before the event which is a devastating move for young revellers.
The event is due to be held this Sunday but Pill Testing Australia, which provides the service, said it could not secure public liability insurance.
“It’s sad and quite dangerous in a way that you’d pull this rug out from underneath us now, because whether you like it or not we know what happens — some people will use drugs,” Pill Testing Australia spokesperson Gino Vambuca said in a statement.
“All this occurred within a 48-hour period just days before the festival is due to commence and despite all our paperwork and plans being submitted earlier was the case in our 2019 planning where pill testing was successfully run as a service at Groovin the Moo.”
GTM was the first event in Australia to provide free pill testing in 2018 and 2019 and had the full support of festival organisers and the local government. But Vambuca said this cancellation would likely cast doubt over the future of pill testing in Australia.
Just outrageous! I remember when Canberra insurance companies refused to cover brothels because of what they called ‘moral risk’.
This poor decision will increase increase the risk of harm for young people attending the festival https://t.co/gm1XtjOKi9
— Fiona Patten MP (@FionaPattenMLC) April 20, 2022
He said the pandemic had made insurers reconsider live events as riskier than before which had flow-on effects for health services.
“I am not sure what the answer is for the future of pill testing and other services that engage with people who use drugs, but intervention at the government level seems to be the only real option to pursue.”
A real backwards step for drug harm minimisation in Australia today with Canberra’s @groovinthemoo festival not able to provide pill testing services after insurance companies backed out. Very disappointing and lives will be at risk as a result. #cbr #act
— Marisa Paterson MLA (@marisa_paterson) April 20, 2022
The ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia that allows pill testing.
The federal government opposes pill testing and previously banned it at Canberra music festival Spilt Milk after it got the green light from organisers and the ACT government.
Vambuca said without government intervention pill testing would basically be at the whims of the insurance companies, despite recommendations from state coroners and a mountain of evidence that confirms it can save lives.
If you’re partying this weekend please be safe, stay hydrated and look after your friends. Lord knows the government won’t.