Harm reduction strategies

Harm reduction strategies

Harm reduction strategies at music events are numerous and diverse. They range from the provision of water stations and free water bottles at events, to providing ‘pass outs’ or chill out and sanctuary spaces. They can also include engaging with expert organisations, who provide harm reduction information services and pill testing. The more that is done to address harm reduction at events, the more successful the outcomes are.24

Crowd at a rave

Chill out and sanctuary spaces

Environmental approaches to harm reduction focus on changing the social and physical environment and offer management and organisers an approach to harm reduction that is built in to the design of events.

They focus on creating spaces (often called chill out or sanctuary spaces), which offer respite from the event, providing a quiet, calm, comfortable and shady space for patrons to relax. These might also be areas that provide hydration and food and can also be a good opportunity to provide health promotion information to patrons that address key issues specific to the event environment, such as information on common substances taken at these events and information on how to care for friends who might be using substances.

Chill out spaces are also key areas in which to engage in peer education interventions. Peer education about substance use and harm at music events is an effective way of reducing immediate harm, and potentially reducing future substance use.25 Peer-to-peer education teams are often the first point of call for patrons experiencing distress and are of critical importance to ensure that individuals seek and obtain the treatment needed.26

Chill out spaces should be clearly signposted and marked on festival and event maps and information about them should be shared in programs and promotional material.27

Peer education programs

DanceWize is a peer education program run by Harm Reduction Victoria and NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA). It is volunteer lead and operates at dance parties, festivals, nightclubs and events.28 DanceWize provide judgement free chill out spaces where patrons can access accurate and credible information about drug and alcohol related harm, through both face-to-face discussion and resources, and support services. Volunteers are first aid trained, though patrons that need medical attention are referred to onsite health providers, such as St John Ambulance. Event organisers can contact Harm Reduction Victoria or NUAA to request the presence of DanceWize at their events.

save-a-mate is a health program run by Australian Red Cross, that provides peer-to-peer information services in urban, rural and remote areas. Trained volunteers utilise chill out spaces to identify and support people who are experiencing adverse reactions to substances.29

Event organisers can contact save-a-mate via Australian Red Cross

Healthcare and first aid providers

St John Ambulance provide onsite healthcare and first aid services at events around Australia. St John team members are specifically trained to address issues that may arise from substance use at these events and can provide advice as well as medical treatment or assistance if needed.30

Event organisers can contact St John Ambulance to request a service quote.

Staff and security training

Ensuring that festival staff and security are trained appropriately to deal with people who might be taking substance is important, as the attitudes of staff and security at events has been shown to be key in reducing the potential for anti-social or aggressive behaviour as a result of substance use.31 Staff should also be trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of overdose, and how to appropriately address these situations.

Pennington Institute run overdose awareness and first aid courses around Australia, more information is available on their website.