Parents call for pill testing as man dies from suspected drug overdose at Beyond The Valley musical festival
Adriana Buccianti says pill testing could act as a safety net for young people using drugs at festivals. (Supplied)
On the first day of any new year, regardless of where he was in the world, Daniel Buccianti would always find a minute to speak with his mother.
Their calls became a little tradition, a special way to ring in the beginning of a fresh chapter in both of their lives.
It was something Adriana Buccianti looked forward to.
But when Daniel was 34, about seven years ago, he overdosed after taking drugs at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Western Victoria and died.
Since then, memories of their phone calls have been a painful reminder of her son’s death in 2012.
A man has died after a suspected drug overdose at the Beyond The Valley music festival. (Facebook: Beyond The Valley)
And they are never more vivid than when other young people die in circumstances similar to Daniel, as they did yesterday.
In the early hours of the new year, a young man from Mansfield died from a suspected overdose, days after he was flown to hospital.
He had attended the Beyond The Valley festival at Lardner, east of Melbourne.
The death follows that of another man who died after taking an unknown substance at the Lost Paradise music festival, west of Gosford in New South Wales.
When she first heard about the death in Victoria, Ms Buccianti said she was devastated.
“We know that people, young people, will take drugs,” she said.
“For the longest time, since there’s been music, there’s been drugs.
“We need to protect these young people from themselves.”
‘If I was a parent … I would be scared to death’
The recent deaths have sparked a national debate around pill testing, with advocates renewing calls for the technology to be introduced in order to minimise risks.
Since her son died, Ms Buccianti has been a fierce advocate of the measure, which she believes could have saved Daniel’s life.
“My son would have never, ever wanted to come out of that festival in a body bag,” she said.
“I think that if there was something available, it’s a safety net.”
But it is a prickly issue for states and territories, which have previously ruled out the measure.
“If I was a parent today of young people who were going out, I would be scared to death,” Ms Buccianti said.
“I think it’s more about protecting themselves from themselves, really. Because [taking drugs] seems to be a rite of passage.”
In recent days, two other men have been hospitalised after suspected drug overdoses at the Beyond The Valley festival.
Australia’s first pill-testing trial was held at the Groovin the Moo festival in Canberra in April, but both the NSW and Victorian Governments are opposed to the idea.
Victoria’s Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley said the State Government had no plans to allow pill testing, as Victoria Police had advised that the practice could give people a “false, and potentially fatal, sense of security about illicit drugs”.
NSW Labor leader Michael Daley has said his party would be open to exploring pill testing if it wins the March state election.
Ms Buccianti urged decision-makers around Australia to put themselves in the shoes of victims.
“What would you do if that was your son or daughter? Would you not want somebody to do something about it?” she said.
“I’d like them to take 10 seconds out of their day and think what it would be like for their kids never to come back. This is what I have to go through every day.
“They have the power to be able to put a safety net in place.”