‘We are years behind’: Defqon.1 boss blasts Australia’s ‘intimidating’ approach to drug-taking after two people died at his festival
- Inquest is being held into six drug deaths of young people in New South Wales
- Simon Coffey, director of Q-dance which runs Defqon.1, spoke at inquest
- He said the intensity of policing at festivals in Australia was counter-productive
- Australia should consider a harm reduction approach like Holland, he said
Published: 23:51 EDT, 9 July 2019 | Updated: 23:51 EDT, 9 July 2019
The boss of Defqon.1 has blasted Australia’s heavy-handed approach to drugs after two people died at the festival last year.
Simon Coffey, director of Q-dance which runs Defqon.1, said Australia was ‘years behind’ other countries such as the Netherlands which have pill testing.
Mr Coffey spoke on Wednesday at an inquest into six drug deaths at festivals in New South Wales between December 2017 and January 2019.
The boss of Defqon.1 has blasted Australia’s heavy-handed approach to drugs after two people died at the festival last year. Pictured: Police with sniffer dogs search patrons before entry into the Sterio Sonic music festival at Melbourne Showgrounds
He said the intensity of policing at festivals in Australia was counter-productive – and the country should copy the ‘open an honest’ model used in Holland which focuses on safety.
According to news.com, he said ravers in Australia are met with a ‘wall of police, riot police and drug dogs,’ whereas those in the Netherlands get a hug from a harm reduction officer.
‘It’s a very intimidating for young people.’ he said. ‘I don’t feel like they feel confident approaching a police officer because they think they’ll go to jail’.
Mr Coffey said the three-day Defqon festival in Holland is attended by 150,000 people (compared to 30,000 in Sydney) but drug deaths there are extremely rare.
‘The festival culture in the Netherlands is 100 times bigger, but they have no fatalities,’ he told the court.
He said the Dutch government runs an app which lets party-goers know when any dangerous drugs are circulating, such as a more potent form of ecstasy called PMA.
Diana Nguyen, 18, and 23-year-old Joseph Pham (both pictured) died from MDMA overdoses at Defqon.1 in September
Simon Coffey, director of Q-dance which runs Defqon.1, said Australia was ‘years behind’ other countries such as the Netherlands which have pill testing (stock image)
Diana Nguyen, 18, and 23-year-old Joseph Pham died from MDMA overdoses at Defqon.1 in September.
Talking about the deaths, Mr Coffey said: ‘It was a freak situation and it was absolutely devastating and it’s marked me and it’s marked a lot of people who are involved in running the company.
‘There were two others (fatalities) in the past – one in 2013 and one in 2015.’
On Tuesday, the inquest focused on the medical facilities at the festival.
The court heard there were two doctors, one from EMS and a more senior doctor from Medical Response Australia, to look after 30,000 people.
A junior EMS doctor was caring for asthma attack and drug psychosis patients when Mr Pham arrived at the medical tent and Ms Nguyen was carried in minutes later.
Mr Coffey said one doctor per 1,000 patrons, ‘if not more’, and additional roving medical officers were planned for the future.
He said ‘since the tragedies that happened throughout summer’ NSW Health has proposed initiatives including ensuring the right number of medics and looking after all critical care patients.
But Mr Coffey said Defqon.1 will not go ahead in 2019 after the venue, near Penrith, withdrew from hosting the event.
He believes Ms Nguyen’s and Mr Pham’s deaths are the reason for this decision.
‘At this stage, we have just put all of our events on hold until the findings of this coronial inquest come out.’
Mr Coffey said the three-day Defqon festival in Holland is attended by 150,000 people – compared to 30,000 in Sydney (pictured) – but drug deaths there are extremely rare