Party Safer and Save Our Parties

Unharm’s Community Meeting on Drug Policy and LGBTIQ Activism

Cultures of care and collective pleasure have long been features of LGBTIQ communities. Drug use is a reality of many people’s lives and of party scenes, and LGBTIQ communities have a great track record of keeping people safe and well at dance events and beyond.

For over a decade now, NSW police have used sniffer dogs as a pretext for subjecting sexual and racial minorities, the homeless, and youth attending music festivals to harassment and intimidation. These police operations have had a corrosive effect on queer party culture, leading many of us to avoid what have traditionally been some of the most significant events for queer community-formation.

The issue came to a head at the 2013 Mardi Gras, when numerous accounts of police harassment surrounding the event led LGBTI Sydney-siders to take to the streets en masse to protest the intrusive and heavy-handed policing of our communities.

Since that time, a wider critique of drug policy and practice has emerged within the broader dance community and harm reduction movement, with groups such as Unharm mobilizing to make changes to drug policing on the basis of public health concerns and civil rights.

The recent deaths of three young people at Stereosonic parties around Australia ­– despite massive police drug dog operations at each event – has prompted calls from a range of experts for more effective ways to ensure the safety of those who use drugs to enjoy dance parties.

As anyone familiar with dance culture knows, death is only one (very rare) possibility associated with the consumption of party drugs, and it can be avoided when the right governance arrangements are in place. Pill testing is one initiative that has been successful in European countries and there are no doubt many others that will help people party more safely.

Since the beginning of the AIDS crisis, LGBTI communities have been at the forefront of innovations in harm reduction. For a long time, we’ve recognized the need to develop and maintain cultures of care at dance events and more broadly. Projects such as the ACON Rovers are leading the way in terms of community-driven harm reduction, among other efforts, and there is much to be learnt from such initiatives.

On Monday 11 January, UNHARM is hosting a meeting on drug policy and LGBTIQ organizing in Sydney. The meeting aims to build on the vibrant history of LGBTIQ community activism here, and the growing movement for better drug laws and safer drug use. Come and share your ideas about drugs, LGBTIQ lives, party culture, practices of care, and law enforcement in Sydney today.

The meeting will include a discussion of Unharm’s goals for the coming year, as well as plenty of space to share your ideas about priorities and strategies for activism.

Come along to help keep Sydney vibrant, caring and queer!

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