NSW has a problem with music festivals, and the country has a problem with alcohol. If the government won’t budge on the issue, are alcohol-free events a viable option?
As a nation, Australians are a bunch of drunks. We consume approximately 186 million litres of pure alcohol a year.
For most of us, having a drink with our mates is a part of life, and saying no to alcohol often leads to digs from your buddies about how soft you are. The 2018 Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) Annual Alcohol Poll found that 82% of adult Australians drink alcohol. 28% of respondents to a 2017 study by Drinkwise Australia said they drink for social reasons, and data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicates that one in four people have consumed alcohol at levels that placed them in danger of harm at least monthly.
The excessive drinking culture that plagues Australia is not a new phenomenon. It has been discussed to death for longer than I’ve been alive, and it will no doubt continue long after I’m dead (possibly from one of the 6,000 alcohol-related deaths that occur every year). There are even Drinking Guides prepared for students to help them know their limits and how to say no.
On top of our drinking habits, it appears we’re all becoming a little bit addicted to drugs too, with illicit substance use on the rise across the country according to a report from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. In fact, data collected by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) indicates that more than 42% of Australians aged over fourteen have used an illicit drug at least once in their lifetime. In 2014, the United Nations reported that Australia was the party drug capital of the world, with Australians popping more ecstasy pills than any other country.
Put together, our party culture is killing us at a rapid pace. The AIHW report that combined, alcohol and illicit drugs are responsible for one in every 20 deaths. With figures like these, the recent spate of drug and alcohol-related deaths at parties in Australia comes as no real surprise, despite their tragic nature. The death of five young people at music festivals by mid-February sparked plenty of renewed debate over the validity and ethical responsibly of pill testing, but as always, no one has had the guts to stand up and take affirmative action.
Founder of Xstatic Sunsets, Jasper Valance, thinks he might just have a unique way to counter our need to get wasted. After becoming frustrated with the constant overconsumption of alcohol at festivals and parties that always seemed to lead to aggressive behaviour, Valance wanted to find a new way to enjoy himself. He attended the Bali Spirit Festival, where he discovered that in the right environment, it was possible to attain that same high that had previously been gained from the consumption of drugs and alcohol, without needing to touch either. Now he wants to recreate that same moment here in Australia.
“As we know, drug and alcohol abuse and addiction contribute to anxiety and depression, but on the flip side, dance, music and connecting with others can bring great joy, happiness and a natural high, without needing anything,” says Valance.
Valance believes that the sober party concept can be a game-changer, “Going sober is better for your mental health, gives you better conversations and more genuine connections. You can achieve this natural high through dancing, which is otherwise masked by drinking or taking drugs.”
Will the idea take off? What do you think?