Pubdate: Fri, 25 Feb 2000
Source: Illawarra Mercury (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 Illawarra Newspapers
Contact:  http://mercury.illnews.com.au/
Author: Ariane Lewis

MEDIA, MPS MISS POINT ON DRUG DEATH

The recent overdose of a 26-year-old man at the Happy Valley Full Moon
festival near Appin (February 19) has sparked a new bout of
allegations pertaining to young people and drugs.

Unfortunately the media has ravaged the festival for its apparent
heavy drug scene, and as a result young people are seen in a negative
reflection of the event.

Instead of concentrating on the positive aspects (expression of youth
culture, the way the event was organised, how accessible it was) the
general focus has been towards drugs, young people taking drugs and
negativity of rave parties in general.

The Happy Valley festival offered young people a weekend where they
could dance and hang out in a friendly environment. Such an
opportunity is a rare thing for local young people these days.

Aware of the possibility of drugs, organisers of the Happy Valley
festival ensured there were chill-out rooms and cold showers available
and took responsibility in making sure party goers knew of these as
well.

As the media has shaken the entire festival up as a promoter of drugs
it fails to look at the blatant issue concerning drugs and young
people altogether.

The fact a young man has overdosed should remind politicians there is
something amiss in drug law reform and they need to look at the root
of the problem, not the effect.

NSW Opposition Leader Kerry Chikarovski has since stated she thinks
there needs to be a heavier police presence at raves, and a more
thorough search of party goers at the gates.

Not only would this lead more people away from the event, it would
damage any sense of security young people could ever have in enjoying
themselves at festivals like this.

It isnít often we have the chance to hang out with friends in a
comfortable environment - and when we do the last thing we could want
is harassment from police.

The fact is, young people are capable of looking after themselves, and
we take responsibility for what we do.  Youth culture changes all the
time, and we take pride in expressing individually that makes up our
culture.

It isn't the drugs that define our culture; it is the music and vibe
that Happy Valley offered.  It is the chance to enjoy these things
without the harassment.

It would be a shame if this were the last Happy Valley festival.  In
preventing rave festivals like Happy Valley taking place we would be
encouraging disillusionment among youth that their expression is not
welcomed, not trusted and, above all, will not be tolerated.

ARIANE LEWIS,
Mt Ousley
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