Evaluating the efficacy of harm reduction training

Australian Festival Association (AFA) and UNSW Sydney established best practice guidelines to train festival staff in harm-reduction techniques.


Festivals are popular occasions for fun and entertainment, but they also carry heightened safety risks such as sexual harassment, assault and drug-related illness. The recurrence of these risks has led to a call out from government for stronger regulations in the industry.
The Australian Festival Association (AFA), a representative body for the music festival scene, was formed in 2018 to elevate standards across the industry and align evidence-based practices with government policy requirements. 

“The music festival industry provides enormous social and cultural benefits and contributes significantly to the economy. It’s important to preserve this whilst ensuring the safety of all patrons,” Mitchell Wilson, Managing Director - AFA

As part of their strategic priorities, AFA collaborated with DanceWize to design and deliver PartySafe. The harm-reduction training program aims to educate festival staff on drug and alcohol-intoxication and sexual violence reporting procedures however, to date, there has been little evidence on the efficacy of such programs.


UNSW conducted an evidence-based process and outcome evaluation of AFA’s PartySafe training program. 

“We are committed to our harm minimisation program and working with Dr Phillip Wadds and the team to assess the impact of our training module.” 

The evaluation was informed by survey data, field observations, existing police and event medical records, and security incident registers. 

As a complement to the evaluation, best-practice guidelines for staff training at events were established, along with a series of recommendations on program improvements.

The project output included several reports and an industry roundtable to disseminate findings to festival organisers and other relevant stakeholders.


The research conducted by UNSW is the start of an ongoing effort to educate festival staff and patrons about how to manage situations that can result in harm. 

The development of best-practice guidelines will lead to increased staff awareness of harm reduction techniques and ensure safety improvements at music festivals.

“AFA has an important role to play in training and educating festival staff and setting the industry standard for safety practices. Together with UNSW, we are doing this by providing recommendations to government on how we can improve harm minimisation at music festivals using evidence-based research.”