Australian first as ACT Greens secure commitment to regular pill-testing

Australian Greens

The ACT Greens are pleased today to have secured a commitment from ACT Labor to explore a permanent pill-testing site in the ACT this Summer – an Australian-first that will build on the success of earlier trials at music festivals.

“The ACT Greens are pleased today to have secured a commitment from our Government colleagues to extend pill-testing from only music festivals to a more regular weekend service in the city, this Summer, informed by expert health advice,” ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said today.

“The reality is – people don’t just take pills at music festivals. A routine pill-testing site will continue to build on the success of previous pill testing trials at music festivals here in the ACT, and help keep more young lives safe.

“This decision today means that over the coming summer, as we look to potentially eased restrictions, we’ll be able to provide more supports so that young people can experience less harm as a result of recreational drug use.

“The Greens have long advocated for a routine pill-testing site as a health service that should be regularly provided in our city. We are especially pleased today that the ACT will again lead the nation in helping keep more young people safe.”

The road to pill testing: Timeline of events

  • In the lead-up to the 2016 election, the ACT Greens commit to realising a pill testing trial in the ACT.
  • In November 2016, the ACT Greens, together with drug law reform advocates, unsuccessfully lobby relevant Ministers to support a pill-testing trial at the upcoming Spilt Milk festival.
  • In early 2017, the STA-SAFE consortium officially submit an application for a pill testing trial at the upcoming Groovin The Moo (GTM) Festival to the ACT Government for cabinet consideration. The promoters of GTM are clear that their support is contingent on ACT Government endorsement. In May 2017, GTM goes ahead in Canberra without a pill testing trial in place.
  • Mid 2017 – The Government shifts to consideration of the issue from a health perspective. The Chief Health Officer then establishes a working group across government and key stakeholders.
  • By September, ACT Government approval is secured to host a trial.
  • Within weeks, Spilt Milk organisers then retract their earlier support, claiming that the National Capital Authority had refused to provide approval for the trial to go ahead. It remains unclear if and what political intervention may have occurred between the Canberra Liberals and their federal counterparts: ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury says “the Canberra Liberals have instead used their back channels to undermine the ACT Government-calling up their mates on the Hill to have them interfere in an ACT Government approved program.”
  • In November 2017, Spilt Milk goes ahead in Canberra without a pill testing trial in place.
  • In 2018, the ACT Greens continue to lobby for a pill testing trial to take place at the upcoming Groovin The Moo festival – this time lobbying the festival promoter, not the ACT Government.
  • In early April, the ACT Greens joined with some of the nation’s leading drug law reform and harm minimisation experts with an open letter calling on festival promoters to commit to a pill testing trial and “potentially save lives”.
  • In April 2018, the nation’s first pill testing trial goes ahead at GTM.
  • In April 2019, Canberra’s second pill testing trial goes ahead, again at GTM – and is hailed an “overwhelming success”.
  • In December 2019, an independent ANU report on the pill-testing trials endorses the scheme as beneficial.
  • On 20 August 2020, the ACT Greens successfully advocate for a pill testing facility to be piloted in Civic, every weekend, starting this summer.

Statement ends

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