NEWCASTLE University Students’ Association is planning to reintroduce pill testing kits for students as part of a suite of harm minimisation initiatives.
Incoming NUSA president Kearnie Kelly said the government’s current policy of “prohibition with high policing has not worked and in many ways has caused more harm”.
“We hope to facilitate connecting students with effective harm minimisation strategies,” she said.
“This will include providing a sample single-use reagent test kit for various substances.”
Students will need to attend a workshop with a drug and alcohol counsellor to receive the kits.
“We are still finalising the scope of the workshops, but they are likely to cover the risk of drug use – even when the kits return a clean result – first aid for adverse reactions and how to access support for problem use.
“The program will link students with accurate, unbiased resources.”
NUSA will also produce flyers about minimising harm and connecting to services.
“We want to create a safe space where students can start discussions about drugs so they can make informed decisions.”
The Newcastle Herald reported in November 2016 then-NUSA president Phill Johnson saying the association was “very keen to trial” free kits, which the University of Melbourne Student Union had introduced that September.
“This is an issue for all universities,” Mr Johnson said at the time.
“The last thing we want to see is students put in a precarious situation. It’s important that we make sure that all students are safe at all times.”
It is understood about 100 kits were dispensed in 2017.
NUSA planned in 2018 to distribute multi-use kits and contacted a Canadian supplier, but the deal didn’t eventuate.
NUSA provided material about these kits to an inquiring student from a residential college and continued to hand out information about minimising harm.
Ms Kelly said this year’s kits, which were likely to come from an Australian supplier, were not a substitute for policy change.
“The kits we can supply are an indication of adulteration, but not a direct substitute for the high level analysis provided by lab quality testing,” she said.
“Further, the intensive policing of entries to festivals encourages risky behaviour such as consuming all drugs prior to entry or purchasing within a festival from an unknown supplier.”
Australia’s first professionally administered pill-testing outfit was at Canberra’s Groovin’ the Moo festival last April.