An Australian First – Fixed Site Pill Testing Announced

Pill Testing Australia (PTA) and Harm Reduction Australia (HRA) are pleased to advise that approval has been given by the ACT Government to pilot Australia’s first ever fixed site pill testing service.

The approval was announced in last night’s ACT Government’s Budget and includes funding for this vital public health service to proceed.

Discussions with the ACT Health Department on the start date and hours of operation will commence in coming weeks but details on the initiative’s announcement can be found in the ACT Budget Outlook Papers (see page 189)

HRA & PTA want to thank the ACT Government, in particular the Chief Minister and Health Minister, as well as many other Assembly Members and officers within the ACT Government that gave their support and assistance to help develop this very important public health service.

The experience and expertise within the PTA & HRA teams in having already successfully delivered Australia’s only pill testing services at festivals has given the ACT Government the confidence to proceed with Australia’s first fixed site pill testing service.

There will be significant data collection and an independent evaluation built into the pilot program to allow the ACT Government to determine its future beyond the pilot period. It is also hoped that the information provided by the pilot program will allow other Governments in Australia to consider the evidence and determine the public health benefits from replicating the ACT Government decision.

PTA & HRA also confirmed their offer to provide a cost-free trial of its pill testing service at a music festival to all other Governments – this was an offer accepted in 2018 by the ACT Government and demonstrated the incredible value of our services to the health and wellbeing of festival goers by helping them make informed choices.

Pill testing has been shown to significantly reduce the harms from drug use by providing accurate information directly to people about the content of those substances. Too many Australian young people lose their lives each year from drug use and pill testing, along with a range of other harm reduction strategies, can help reduce that risk.

As announced in a recent media release PTA will have increased testing technology available at the fixed site pill testing service – 26 August 2021 Media Release

Please also see some links below to our reports from pilot pill testing programs in Canberra

2018 Report 2019 Media Release 2019 Report 2019 Independent Review

For further information, please contact:

Dr David Caldicott 0478 906 634
Ms Bronwyn Hendry 0417 827 776
Mr Gino Vumbaca 0408 244 552


Pill Testing Australia shares new advert after NSW Deputy Coroner’s recommendations!

Given the recent recommendations by the NSW Deputy Coroner, Pill Testing Australia have shared a short video which highlights the harm caused by preventing young people from having knowledge about the content of their drugs.

The one-minute piece produced by Sydney based Andrew McWilliam is titled “Don’t Leave Young People in the Dark” and shows a young person heading off to a music festival blindfolded.

“By providing pill testing at festivals we can start to remove the blindfolds and provide people with information that we know changes their behaviour” said Pill testing Australia spokesperson Gino Vumbaca.

“By engaging with people who use drugs and by providing scientifically backed knowledge, our pill testing services can achieve a reduction in the number and volume of drugs consumed and consequently reduce harm.” said Mr Vumbaca.

This is the second video produced in Australia for Pill Testing Australia in the last six months.

“We continue to be overwhelmed with the support for Pill Testing Australia by members of the Australian public who recognise the urgent need for this proven harm reduction strategy.” Said Mr Vumbaca.

“The fact that people are donating their valuable time and talent to assist us with advocating for best practice harm reduction keeps us motivated and driven to succeed.” 

Pill Testing Australia launches advert to promote harm reduction strategy!

After releasing a detailed operational report on the second Australian pill testing pilot conducted at Groovin The Moo in April, Pill Testing Australia has launched an advert to support and drive conversation around pill testing at festivals.

The advert, directed by Dylan Harrison from Hooligan Collective, shows a young man hesitating at the top of a cliff while his friends dive into the water below.

A labcoat-wearing woman appears beside the young man telling him that she can’t stop him from jumping but she can help him mitigate the risks by looking at “what’s inside.”

The scene then cuts to a pill testing tent at a music festival. The implication is clear: taking a pill without pill testing is like taking a blind jump off a cliff.

Pill Testing Australia spokesperson Gino Vambucca applauded the creativity of Dylan Harrison for producing a very relevant and strong community service announcement around the important harm reduction strategy.

“The fact that members of the Australian public like Dylan feel so motivated to play an active role in advocating for pill testing to be introduced, is incredibly rewarding for all the public health practitioners and volunteers involved with our work.” Mr Vambucca said.

“The Australian model of pill testing has been designed to interact with people who are about to consume an unknown substance, and this has been captured so poignantly by Dylan. We are looking forward to sharing his incredible work with our stakeholders and the general public through our social media platforms and website.” Mr Vambucca continued.

The pill testing report from Groovin The Moo shows that the free service for consumers tested 170 substances for 234 participants, twice the number tests conducted at the first pill testing pilot a year earlier.

Groovin The Moo gets green light to host Australia’s second-ever pill testing trial

Pill testing will once again go ahead at this year’s Groovin The Moo festival in Canberra.

Heading to a new site at Exhibition Park in Canberra, aka EPiC, at the end of April, Groovin the Moo will host Australia’s second-ever pill testing trial after the ACT Government has again given the green light to the regional touring festival.

The ACT government has also extended an invitation to state and territory health ministers from around Australia to witness the pill-testing process first-hand.

“We are keen for this approach to continue on the basis of the success of the first trial and the failure of policy over many decades now to address harm minimisation adequately,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr told ABC News.

“We believe that by making this service available there’s potential to save lives. In light of the experience in other jurisdictions over the summer with some quite-serious medical issues arising, there will be some additional harm minimisation measures put in place.”

Pill testing is not supported by any state or territory government, or either major federal political party, except the ACT, which conducted Australia’s first pill testing trial at Groovin The Moo in April last year. They hailed it as a success, with 85 substances tested and two potentially deadly substances found, as well as nasty off-shoots like paint and lactose.

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Andrew Barr MLA


Pill testing does not make taking illicit drugs safe and our message to the community will always be, don’t take drugs.

However, pill testing provides a health intervention at the point when someone is making the decision to take a pill. 

“We’re gathering as much information and evidence as we possibly can through these trials to ensure this debate is an informed one,” said Mr Barr, encouraging counterparts from state and territory governments to keep an open mind about data sourced from the two pill testing trials.

“Our agenda here is to ensure that people are as safe as they can possibly be.”

Those opposed to pill testing say the process sends a dangerous message and could encourage festival-goers to take drugs.

“The evidence that we’ve seen shows that pill testing is going to create that illusion that pill taking is safe, when we know that it’s anything but, and it will lead to more people taking drugs,” ACT Opposition spokesman Jeremy Hanson told ABC Radio, criticising the ACT government’s pill testing go-ahead at GTM.

“The message that’s being sent by this is that if pills are tested then they’re safe, and that drug taking is something that the Government either condones or is reasonably comfortable with. That sends a message that’s dangerous.”

The GTM trial will be run by Pill Testing Australia and comes in the wake of five drug-related deaths at music festivals in five months, prompting the NSW Government to investigate festival safety. However, they ruled out pill testing as an option, despite some of Australia’s biggest festivals advocating for pill testing.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been criticised for new festival laws, coming into effect 1 March, which has seen artists, industry reps, and festival promoters band together under the banner of the ‘Don’t Kill Live Music’ campaign. An online petition protesting the policies has reached over 100,000 signatures and thousands are expected to take part in a rally in Sydney this Thursday night.

By Al Newstead

Original article can be read here 

Cover Photo: Wade Whitington