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Curtin University
National Drug Research Institute

Preventing Harmful Drug Use In Australia

A mixed-methods study of drug use at outdoor music festivals in Western Australia and Victoria - PhD Project

Project Team

Chief Investigator:

Jodie Grigg, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University


Dr Monica Barratt, National Drug and Alcohol Research Institute, University of New South Wales
Professor Simon Lenton, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University


Outdoor music festivals (OMFs) have become increasingly popular in Australia and internationally in recent years, particularly those with a focus on electronic dance music. Since their emergence, these events have been consistently identified as popular contexts for alcohol and other drug use (hereafter termed ‘drug use’) (1), and in recent years they have been linked to a number of drug-related deaths (2, 3). This has led to increasing concern about the risk of future drug-related harm and contention on how to effectively respond. While these events have been identified as a high risk context for drug-related harm, there currently exists a dearth of research that has focused on drug use, drug-related harm and harm reduction strategies specifically at these events. This study aims to address this gap by investigating drug use, risks and harms at outdoor music festivals in two Australian cities: Perth and Melbourne. The study also considers current and potential future policy and practice strategies for reducing drug-related harm at these events. A pragmatic mixed-methods approach is employed, involving five stepped phases: a systematic review of the literature, pre-survey interviews with key informants and festival-goers, development and launch of an online festival-goer survey, post-survey interviews, and collation and interpretation of all data sources. The final phase also involves the development of recommendations for initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of drug-related harms at OMFs in Australia. A number of theoretical frameworks are utilised throughout the study, including Rhode’s concept of the ‘risk environment’, which is believed to be underutilised in the context of Australian prevention and harm reduction initiatives.