Advertisement

Berekjiklian Again Rejects Pill Testing After Yet Another Festival Death

Gladys Berejiklian has rejected calls for pill testing after yet another young person died at a music festival from a suspected overdose.

A 19-year-old woman died in hospital on Saturday night after attending the FOMO music festival in western Sydney, becoming the fifth person to die in such circumstances in six months.

The NSW premier said she was willing to do whatever it takes to reduce drug deaths, but that doesn't include pill testing -- a harm reduction measure backed by the wider medical community and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

"These illicit drugs kill lives, and if there's more we need to do, we will, but I also want to make sure we look at every opportunity to reduce those deaths caused," she told media on Sunday.

"I worry that pill testing could actually have the opposite effect."

Over 11,000 people attended the FOMO music festival in Sydney. Photo: Facebook.

The circumstances of her death are being investigated and police are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

The teen died after "ingesting an unknown substance", a police spokesperson confirmed to 10 daily. An investigation is now under way into the circumstances surrounding her death.

"Every time a young person's life is lost to drugs tragically in this way, it tears me to shreds," Berejiklian said.

"I can't imagine what her family and her loved ones are going through this morning. It absolutely cuts me apart."

Her family rushed to be by her side at Westmead Hospital and was with her when she died, a festival spokesperson confirmed.

"We are deeply saddened by the death of one of our patrons of FOMO Festival in Sydney yesterday," the spokesperson said.

"Our most heartfelt and sincerest condolences go out to her family and friends."

The festival said it was working closely with NSW Police, and would continue its anti-drug messaging -- "a message we're proud to deliver and will continue to do so with unwavering commitment in order to keep our beloved patrons safe."

The tragic news is the latest in a number of deaths at summer music festivals across the country, as the debate on pill testing as a harm reduction measure heats up.

Callum Brosnan, 19, suffered a suspected overdose at the Knockout Games of Destiny festival in Sydney in early December.

Sydney teenager Callum Brosnan died after taking a lethal dose of illegal substances at the Knockout Games of Destiny festival. (Image: Facebook)

Josh Tam, 22, died a few weeks later at the Lost Paradise festival on the NSW Central Coast.

Joseph Pham, 23, and Diana Nguyen, 21, died from suspected drug overdoses at the Defqon 1 music festival in September last year.

Despite harm reduction advocates -- including doctors and the former police commissioner -- long pushing for pill testing, politicians have been reluctant to even consider the option.

However, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian recently softened her stance, saying she would consider implementing pill testing if she could be shown evidence it saves lives.

Opposition leader Michael Daley said pill testing "should not be off the table".

The national campaign for drug law reform, 'Take Control', has been pleading with the NSW government to take action on pill testing.

"As always, we must be respectful of the family and remember that every single life is precious,” Ted Noffs Foundation CEO Matt Noffs said late last year.

“This doesn’t need to be the summer of festival deaths.

An estimated 11,387 people attended FOMO, with officers searching 146 people and finding 54 of them with drugs.

Another 23 were ejected, mostly for intoxication, while 28 were refused entry, police said.

READ MORE: The Facts: How Pill Testing Would Work In Australia

READ MORE: Here Are Just Some Of The Experts Who Back Pill Testing

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au