By Angus Thompson
December 18, 2019
The grieving mother of festivalgoer Alex Ross-King is appealing to parents to ‘‘have a conversation with your kids that accepts reality’’ in a social media campaign about harm minimisation and drugs.
Jennie Ross-King, whose 19-year-old daughter died after consuming almost three MDMA capsules, said the campaign was aimed at arming parents with information she wished she’d known before the Central Coast teenager left for Parramatta’s FOMO festival with her friends on January 12.
She said the information in the launch video – which provides talking points about drinking water, getting help, and the dangers of mixing drugs – was distilled from a coronial inquest into her daughter’s death and those of five other young festivalgoers.
“I just feel as though it’s experts talking to experts about what each other know and I just don’t feel that messaging is getting out there to people like me,” she said.
“Lots of parents have contacted me, both people through Facebook and family friends, and have just said, ‘I’m scared, I’ve seen this happen to you’.”
The video is being launched via Facebook and Instagram on Thursday under the banner of the Take Control campaign, a movement launched by the Ted Noffs Foundation that pushes for pill testing in NSW.
Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer, who is a spokesman for the campaign, has called for a rethink on the branding of pill testing, saying the terminology is too bogged down in controversy.
He said there was a danger the wording was too easily misinterpreted as giving a “green light” to drug use and drew attention away from the focus of it being a last-ditch medical intervention.
“I understand the reason why ‘pill testing’ was used and is understood by many potential users, but I think it’s important for us to consider using a phrase which better reflects the reality of the service,” Mr Palmer said.
Polling published earlier this month by Essential Media shows 61 per cent of Australians support pill testing, with 56 per cent support from people surveyed in NSW.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian last week said her government was “closing the door” on pill testing, which Mr Palmer criticised as a “tragedy for good government”.
But the former policeman, who is set to tour Rotary clubs in an effort to reach the “unconverted” about harm minimisation tactics, said it was time to reassess the language around pill testing in a bid to “take away the fear” from everyday Australians.
He said language such as “drug analyse” or “drug checking” more closely reflected the role of the measure, which prioritises experts speaking to users about risks.
Pill Testing Australia’s David Caldicott, who led two trials at Canberra’s Groovin’ the Moo festival, disagreed, saying it was “a basic premise of good public health care to use the terminology that will be most accepted by the people who end up using the service.”