Police are currently in discussion with the Victorian Government to create stop-and-search powers inside and outside of music festival venues, with the aim of curbing drug use at outdoor dance festivals and bush doofs.
Victorian Minister for Police Lisa Neville told the ABC on Sunday that outdoor festivals—and doofs in particular—were of huge concern to law enforcement officers. "We've got a really big issue in some of our bush doof raves out in the country, where there's often very little organisation and very little safety features as part of those raves," she said.
Neville said she was open to patrons of festivals with "poor track records" of drug use and overdoses being searched as they entered outdoor venues, for the purposes of reducing drug-related injuries and deaths. "It's all about trying to reduce harm, we know there are certain festivals that have had a long history of overdoses and… large numbers of ambulances having to be called out serious harm being caused to young people," she said.
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The Victorian Government currently grants police stop-and-search powers at sporting events under its Major Sporting Events Act. The Victorian Police propose amending this act to also apply to outdoor music events like bush doofs and other dance festivals—despite the fact it was originally designed for football games, horse racing carnivals, tennis championships, and cricket matches. Some may say these events are a little different to your average Rainbow Serpent.
But, according to the Act, a police officer at a sporting event may "request a person to produce and open for inspection… any bag, basket, or other receptacle" the person has on them—either inside or outside the event venue. They also have the powers to ask the person to empty their bags and pockets.
Numerous drug reform experts have previously told VICE that harm minimisation measures like on-site pill testing facilities are far more effective at curbing drug-related deaths at music events than extended police powers. Yet the only Australian politician to publicly endorse these measures is leader of the Australian Sex Party and Victorian MP Fiona Patten, who has been quick to call out what she calls the Victorian government's "hypocrisy" on festival drug deaths, commenting that the proposed new measures increase potential harm rather than reducing it.