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Australian music festivals face strict licensing laws

NSW music festivals to apply for licensing in bid to make events safer and prevent drug-related deaths

By Anna Grace on 21 Jan 2019

Australian music festivals face strict licensing laws

Defqon.1 festival

image © Dushan and Miae

The government in New South Wales has introduced new licensing regulations for music festivals following a string of suspected drug-related deaths at festivals in the southeastern Australian state.

Since September, five young festivalgoers have died after attending music festivals in NSW. The most recent fatality occurred earlier this month, when 19-year-old Alex Ross-King collapsed and died at the Sydney edition of FOMO festival.

From March, festival organisers will have to apply for specific liquor licences, similar to those required for pubs and clubs. A panel of experts will decide whether to approve each application before a license can be issued.

It is thought that representatives from NSW Health, NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, and Liquor and Gaming NSW will comprise the panel. The licences will be targeted to the risks that each event entails.

“Events with a poor track record and heightened risk will face greater oversight from authorities”

The new regulations come following recommendations of an expert panel which was formed to advise the government on how to keep festivalgoers safe, following two deaths at Defqon.1 festival in September.

The licensing laws place heightened responsibility on festival organisers to ensure the safety of patrons, placing the onus on them to assess and proactively manage safety risks.

“Festival organisers will need to ensure their events meet high safety standards,” says minister for liquor, gaming and racing Paul Toole. “Events with a poor track record and heightened risk will face greater oversight from authorities.”

Until the new scheme comes into effect in March, interim measures at festivals will include “chill-out zones” staffed by medical professionals to help those who feel unwell. Obligatory free water stations will also be introduced.

However, the government has stated that it will not introduce pill testing, despite calls from the Australian Festival Association, and family and friends of the deceased.


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