'Enough is enough': Festival victim's mother wants pill-testing implemented

The mother of a young woman who fatally overdosed at a Sydney music festival said the pill-testing debate was “getting beyond a joke” after she received a first-hand look at the logistics of testing at the Splendour in the Grass festival on Saturday.

Jennie Ross-King, whose 19-year-old daughter Alex died after taking almost three doses of the party drug MDMA in January, travelled with NSW Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame to the three-day-festival north of Byron Bay.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame (front row second), and Jennie Ross-King (second row, third from left) at the pill testing explanation session at Splendour in the Grass music festival.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame (front row second), and Jennie Ross-King (second row, third from left) at the pill testing explanation session at Splendour in the Grass music festival.Credit:AAP

“I guess the disappointing part of all of it was this has been 20 years in the making, and Alex was 19,” Ms Ross-King said.

“This is why I’m feeling like I need to help promote that change and that behaviour because someone else is going into labour and I don’t want their kid, 20 years from now, to be in the same position Alex and our family are.


“Enough is enough. It is getting beyond a joke now.”

Emergency medical specialist David Caldicott, who has been advocating for, and researching pill testing for two decades, conducted the role-play demonstration for a crowd of about 150 on the mechanics of how a festival-goer would get their drugs checked.

He was forbidden from actually turning the testing machine on, even to check a legal substance.

“We are in a perfect storm right now, because there has never been such an array [of drugs], the candy store has never been so big as it is now,” Dr Caldicott said.

“Many of the products that have arrived on the market, particularly in Australia, are far more dangerous than the products they have been designed to replace.”

Young festival-goers, desperate for information about how to consume drugs more safety, plied Dr Caldicott with questions about pill potency and the risks after his talk.

“I thought it was fantastic that some of those kids were sitting there asking questions,” Ms Ross-King said.

“For me, that’s who we need to be listening to, experts with knowledge and experience.”

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame was seated in front of Ms Ross-King for the demonstration as part of her research for the inquest into the deaths of six young people at music festivals, as well as harm-reduction measures including pill testing and the role of police and security staff.

The inquest is examining the circumstances of Alex Ross-King’s death along with those of Joshua Tam, 22, Callum Brosnan, 19, Joseph Pham, 23, Diana Nguyen, 21, and Nathan Tran, 18.

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