'Kids are still dying': Anna's dad's despair over pill testing
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'Kids are still dying': Anna's dad's despair over pill testing

Parents who have lost children to drugs are divided over a pill-testing trial planned for a Canberra music festival on Sunday.

The STA-Safe consortium has been cleared to check illegal drugs at Groovin the Moo, in an Australian-first pilot that has the backing of the ACT government, ACT Policing, venue the University of Canberra, and festival organisers Cattleyard Promotions.

Tony Wood, whose daughter Anna died in 1995 after taking ecstasy.

Tony Wood, whose daughter Anna died in 1995 after taking ecstasy.

But Tony Wood, whose daughter Anna Wood died three days after taking an ecstasy tablet at a dance party in 1995, said he was afraid the harm minimisation measure would not go far enough to protect festival goers.

"They've been doing it overseas for years and kids are still dying over there," Mr Wood said.

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"All they can tell you is what's in the tablet, but drugs are idiosyncratic, you don't know how it will affect any one person, any one time. The thing Anna took was pure MDMA, it wasn't contaminated with anything else. I can't see what the good of this is going to be."

Mr Wood was once a vocal campaigner against drugs, but has been quiet since the death of his wife 18 months ago.

Daniel's mum Adriana Buccianti has become an advocate for pill testing.

Daniel's mum Adriana Buccianti has become an advocate for pill testing. Credit:Kate Healy, Ballarat Courier

He has spent countless hours over the years counselling other mums and dads who've lost a child to drugs, either through addiction or death, and he doesn't want to see another family in that position.

"It's been 23 years since Anna died. I've almost given up trying to save the world, it's almost too hard. I just hope everyone comes out safe and  well," Mr Wood said.

Adriana Buccianti, who began lobbying for pill testing after the death of her son Daniel at the Rainbow Serpent festival in Victoria in 2012, said she was "heartened" by news of the trial.

The Victorian mother has amassed nearly 40,000 signatures on her change.org  petition calling for drug checking services to be rolled out at music festivals across Australia.

She believes had pill testing been available, her son would have used it and would not have overdosed.

"If someone said to him this pill is 100 times stronger than anything you've ever taken, he would have said 'fine' and thrown it away. He didn't go there to come out in a body bag, he went there to have fun," Ms Buccianti said.

Ms Buccianti said claims the trial would allow drug dealers to certify their product were designed to frighten people and "not rooted in any great truth really".

"Prohibition doesn't work. We've done the dogs, we've done the police, we've done the 'don't take it'. We've arrived at a point where we need to do something different. One death is too many and we've had too many," she said.

Family Drug Support chief executive Tony Trimingham,  who lost his son to a heroin overdose, said he believed people would be safer as a result of the trial.

"Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pro-drugs, I think that people should be very wary about anything they take and the safest thing to do is not to use drugs. However, we know as family members that is a bit of a pipe dream so it’s really important to us to keep them safe," Mr Trimingham said.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

Steven Trask is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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