A punter at the Field Day festival on January 1 shows what appears to be drugs. Picture: Derrick Krusche
A punter at the Field Day festival on January 1 shows what appears to be drugs. Picture: Derrick Krusche

‘They deserve to die — we don’t care’

THEY all deserved to die.

I don't give a damn - don't expect any sympathy from me.

Your children are to blame … this is Charles Darwin's principles at work - let natural selection take its course.

Mummy can't handle her son was a druggie, Who cares? He died? Good.

These are just a handful of the cold and callous comments that have flooded social media in recent weeks, in response to several drug deaths at music festivals across Australia.

Calls for pill testing to be allowed at events where the consumption of illicit and potentially dangerous substances is likely has ignited a fierce and bitter debate.

Adriana Buccianti, whose son Daniel died in early 2012, has copped many of those remarks - total strangers gleefully telling her that her gentle, hard-working chef deserved what he got.

Ms Buccianti is one of a growing chorus of voices lobbying for drug testing, arguing it would reduce harm and prevent deaths.

"I see and hear what people say - Daniel did it to himself, taxpayers shouldn't fund this, he deserved it. It makes me feel terrible," Ms Buccianti said.

"I've heard Gladys Berejiklian say there's no proof it works or would make a difference, even though that's not true."

Rather than a rational debate based on evidence, Ms Buccianti said it had descended into a nasty argument from "keyboard warriors" and a political football that politicians desperately want to avoid.

Each time she goes on television or radio to talk about Daniel, who was 34 when he died after taking drugs at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Western Victoria in 2012, Ms Buccianti knows she will face a barrage of fury.

The devastated mother has a message for those critics.

Daniel Buccianti, the only son of Adriana Buccianti, died at a music festival in 2012 of a drug overdose.
Daniel Buccianti, the only son of Adriana Buccianti, died at a music festival in 2012 of a drug overdose.

 

"I would say to those people, close your eyes for a few minutes and think of the person you love most in your life. It might be your child. Then imagine them never, ever coming home.

"You'll never see them again. There will never be another Christmas. You'll never see their wedding or their grandchildren. Nothing.

"That's what I feel every single day for the rest of my life. You can open your eyes. If you feel what I feel, why can't we do something about it? We have the power to do something."

On the day he died, January 29, just 10 days after his birthday, Daniel phoned his mum in a panic after taking something unexpected.

"It was Friday night and he sounded horrified," Ms Buccianti recalled.

"He said he took something bad, it wasn't what he thought, and asked me to come and get him. Whatever he had taken, he knew that it wasn't good. At some point he became psychotic and he asked me to tell him something that only I would knew so that he could be sure he had called me, and that it was actually happening.

"It was heartbreaking. It was a really hot day out in the country at this festival. I told him to go and find his ambos and his friends."

Daniel Buccianti was 34 when he died at a music festival in regional Victoria in 2012.
Daniel Buccianti was 34 when he died at a music festival in regional Victoria in 2012.

After finding someone to look after her granddaughter, who she was minding, Ms Buccianti began the journey to her frightened son several hours away.

But when she phoned him, he sounded fine - completely different to how he had earlier.

"I called him and said I was coming but he sounded different. He said he was fine, he found some friends, he was feeling better, not to come and get him. I asked if he was sure. He insisted he was fine."

While nervous, Ms Buccianti could hear that he was with people he trusted and Daniel assured her the danger had passed.

That night, she woke at 1.30am after having "a wonderful, amazing dream" about her kind boy, who was bright and had done well at school, before pursuing a career as a chef and also working in disability care.

It was probably around the same time that he stopped breathing in his sleep.

Toxicology reports determined that he had taken acid and after experiencing a bad trip, panicked and took benzo diazepam to counteract it.

"Later, he just fell asleep and never woke up again. I remember the policeman saying to me that he looked so peaceful."

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has rejected calls to allow pill testing in the state after a spate of drug deaths at music festivals. Picture: Dylan Robinson
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has rejected calls to allow pill testing in the state after a spate of drug deaths at music festivals. Picture: Dylan Robinson

The moment that officer knocked at the door of her Melbourne home at 8.30am on the Saturday, Ms Buccianti's life became an inescapable nightmare.

It was two years later that Georgina Bartter, 19, died of a suspected drug overdose at the Harbourlife Festival in Sydney.

"I had to do something," she said.

"I've decided to share my story because I know exactly what all of these parents are going through and I don't want Daniel to be a faceless statistic."

Georgina Bartter was 19 when she died after taking drugs at a Sydney music festival in 2014.
Georgina Bartter was 19 when she died after taking drugs at a Sydney music festival in 2014.

 

Josh Tam, 22, died from a suspected overdose at the Lost Paradise music festival in Sydney on December 29, 2018.
Josh Tam, 22, died from a suspected overdose at the Lost Paradise music festival in Sydney on December 29, 2018.

There have been two suspected drug deaths at music festivals in the past week, bringing the total number of lives lost in similar circumstances to five in the past six months.

It has reignited calls for pill testing, which is opposed by the Liberal government in NSW and the Labor government in Victoria.

A punter at the Field Day festival on January 1 shows what appears to be drugs. Picture: Derrick Krusche
A punter at the Field Day festival on January 1 shows what appears to be drugs. Picture: Derrick Krusche

Advocates say research shows it can reduce harm, although some experts believe the proposed approach is flawed. Police are opposed to the notion.

Those who are against pill testing seem to be in favour of maintaining the status quo - using sniffer dogs to find those carrying drugs at festivals and charging them, as a deterrence to those considering rolling the dice.

"What we're doing and what we've always done isn't working - let's do something different," Ms Buccianti said.

"How many bodies do we need before someone does something? Gladys, Daniel (Andrews), come and sit with me for a few hours. I can tell you what (pill testing) would've meant for me. I can tell you what it's like for me that my son is never coming home."

An undercover police officer at Field Day music festival. Picture: Derrick Krusche
An undercover police officer at Field Day music festival. Picture: Derrick Krusche

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