NSW Health Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers: Music Festival Harm Reduction have been developed to support event organisers to provide safe environments for patrons at music festivals in NSW. They include a range of strategies including safety and harm reduction messaging.
Music festival organisers and promoters play a crucial role in communicating harm reduction messages to patrons. Harm reduction messages should be delivered before, during and after events. These messages can be distributed via all festival communication channels including social media platforms, websites, other digital platforms and promotion material. Organisers should consider pre- event messages via social media, text messages and on websites; at the event such as messages on video screens, posters at boundary fences, at queuing points, and in toilet cubicles; and after event messages on websites and social media.
Harm reduction messages should encourage patrons to seek help early if they experience adverse effects from drug and alcohol use and communicate the presence of chill out spaces and medical services. Signage about the location of chill out spaces and medical services should also be placed at the entrance, visible to patrons entering, leaving and during the event.
Here is a list of suggested messages to publish and distribute through event communication channels.
- Seek help if you feel unwell. You won't get into trouble for telling a medical professional what drugs you've taken. Medical services and chill out spaces are available onsite.
- If you're drinking alcohol, keep track of how many drinks you've had to avoid injury or making yourself sick.
- Using illicit drugs like ecstasy, LSD or methamphetamine come with risks. You don't know the purity, what other things have been added to them, strength or how it'll affect you. Don't mix alcohol with other drugs.
Take care of your mates
- You're a mate, not a doctor so don't be afraid to seek help for someone who is unwell.
- Get help for anyone you see who's unwell! Medical services and chill out spaces are available onsite.
- It's a good idea to stay close to your mates. Agree on a place and time to meet, in case you get separated. Don't rely on your mobile phone – your battery could go flat or the network coverage could be overloaded.
Eat, hydrate and stay cool
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you're drinking alcohol.
- Eat well before the festival and allow time for the food to digest. Have regular snacks throughout the festival to keep yourself going.
- Alcohol and other drugs can affect your body's ability to regulate temperature. Heat stroke and hypothermia can easily happen. Wear sun protection, take regular breaks in the shade and have warm clothes ready for when the sun goes down.
Take care of your mental health
- Festivals can become overwhelming. If you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, tell a trusted friend how you feel and move away from loud music. Find a calm place to relax. Find the chill out space who are there to help if you're not sure how you're feeling or need someone to talk too.
- Some drugs, such as psychedelics, can enhance negative feelings like anxiety or bad thoughts. Avoid alcohol or drugs if you are already feeling emotional, depressed or anxious. Don't make any important decisions about life or relationships during a festival!
Think about how you'll get home
- Before the festival, plan your way home and make sure you have enough money to pay for transport.
- Public transport is often the safest transport option. Remember that it's illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any illicit drug and it's not safe to drive until you are fully alert, sober and well rested.
- Never get in a car with someone who has been drinking or taking illicit drugs.
Practice safe sex
- If you hook up with someone, be prepared and take condoms with you. Sexual consent must be explicit. Consent might be different for everyone, but it should be enthusiastic and certain. People under the influence of drugs and alcohol may not be able to consent. If in doubt, put off having sex until they're sober.
- Be aware of drink spiking. Buy and pour your own drinks. Don't accept drinks from strangers.
Visit the Play Safe website to find out everything you need to know about safe sex and consent.
Know what's right for you
- Decide what's right for you on issues like drugs, alcohol and sex. Knowing where you stand makes it easier to stay true to yourself.
- If you don't want to experiment with drugs, you're not alone! Most young people haven't used drugs or don't want to.
- Don't do anything you don't want to do – your mates will respect you more for standing up for yourself.
Harm reduction messaging and delivery should continue to be developed and refreshed over time based on changing patterns of substance use and on what has worked well in the past. Messaging should be co-designed with young people and targeted for specific groups attending music festivals. Event organisers should work in collaboration with the peer based harm reduction programs to develop targeted harm reduction and health promotion messaging.
Music festival organisers should access the Guidelines for Music Festival Event Organisers: Music Festival Harm Reduction for full details of their responsibilities. Click here for the Guidelines
Peer Based Harm Reduction Programs
There are a number of organisations that can provide harm reduction services and messaging for the music festival setting including two organisations that receive NSW Health funding: