Clowns' Stevie Williams Pens An Open Letter To The Australian Government On Legalising Pill Testing

20 October 2023 | 11:43 am | Stevie Williams

Stevie Williams writes that "Pill testing allows people a choice to be educated and safe. It allows friends to encourage each other to promote safety and prevent drug-related deaths."


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Dear Australian Government,

My name is Stevie Williams. I’m a touring musician, a record label owner, the lead vocalist of the band Clowns and on my days off, a keen long-distance runner.

Over the last ten years, my music career has privileged me with many experiences that a younger version of myself could have only dreamt of. Namely, the opportunity to tour internationally, causing a slow but steady process of gaining some popularity overseas and allowing us to return to bigger shows and increasing appearances at music festivals big and small.

One of the privileges mentioned above is the lens that I've gained from a life spent travelling and playing music abroad and the differences I've been able to observe as I skim through different social/live music cultures at gigs and music festivals across a list of countries large enough that I've forgotten how many.

I've observed that, in a sense, young people all around the world attend these events for two umbrella reasons - to let go of their inhibitions and be entertained. Music festivals are truly a spiritual place, allowing people of all walks a necessary environment to vent and let go of their frustrations through the powerful connections forged through music and the shared appreciation of music by their friends and community.

Another observation worth noting is the behaviour of drug use that is prevalent worldwide and seemingly coincides with many rituals involving connection with one's community and the release of inhibitions (and that's not just music festivals).

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With the use of illicit drugs comes the inherent risk of drug use, which we are all very aware of. Potency is hard to determine; unfamiliar and potentially harmful substances can be present, and as we are aware, tragically, using these drugs can result in death.

Many music festivals abroad have adopted the service of pill testing to control this. Time after time, the benefit of pill testing has not only proved to be a successful tool in minimising the tragic effects that drug use can have on a culture and/or community but also presents an opportunity for education. Education that, after years of presence, tends to flourish within the social cliques of communities, resulting in a healthier relationship with the communities’ use of drugs.

I've observed that while drug use is still prevalent at music festivals worldwide, the relationship that music communities have abroad with these drugs is much healthier than that of Australia.

Australians love to have a good time, and for many young people at music festivals, that involves taking drugs. Many young Australians don't know what's in the drugs and don't care because they haven't been afforded the proper education about the drugs they are destined to take. Many Australians get cornered by sniffer dogs at the entrances of music festivals and feel trapped without an option to even throw away the drugs. They think their only option in not getting caught is taking all of them, often causing overdoses.

I'm aware that your view is that Australians just shouldn't be taking drugs - and I agree that these young people shouldn't either - but taking this viewpoint stubbornly to your platform in parliament is not properly addressing the tragic results this issue presents us.

Every day you or any other politician denies Australia the service of pill testing is another day that you have blood on your hands.

It has been proven across the world that pill testing drastically increases the safety of an event. It allows people a choice to be educated and safe. It allows friends to encourage each other to promote safety and, ultimately, prevents drug-related deaths.

Installing pill testing at Australian music festivals is similar to installing seat belts in a car. Like seat belts, maybe not every single person will use them. Like seat belts, perhaps not every single person who does use them will be 100% safe in the event of an accident. But it will drastically increase the safety in the event someone decides to use them - and if that's not just cause to make them mandatory, then I have been left with no faith in our government.

Think about one of the young people in your life who matter to you the most. Imagine they had just gotten their P plates and bought a Ferrari that you may disapprove of but ultimately wouldn't be able to control their use of - at the very least, wouldn't you want them to wear a seat belt?

If the only thing preventing pill testing at Australian music festivals is political discourse and your own personal views on drug use, then I find that absolutely abhorrent. While you and other powerful people within parliament continue to disallow the service of pill testing based on your own stigmatised views of drugs, young people who attend music festivals die from drug overdoses that could have been prevented. It's not good enough.

The new album by Clowns, ENDLESS, is out now via the band’s independent label, Damaged Records. Clowns are touring Australia in 2024.




Friday 15 March – The Brightside, Brisbane

Friday 29 March – Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide

Saturday 30 March – Amplifier Bar, Perth**

Friday 5 April – 170 Russell, Melbourne

Saturday 13 April – Crowbar, Sydney

You can find tickets here.

**Voiid not appearing