PSYCHEDELIC MIDWIFERY AND THE ADVOCACY ELEMENT TO TRIP SITTING
Harm Reduction Victoria's DanceWize program is a harm reduction service provider at music events and festivals in Victoria. Due to the socio-political climate, advocacy is a key component in order to deliver our services as effectively as possible. Australia is a high-income country, that boasts the world’s first needle and syringe programs, and 'Harm Minimisation' has been the official National Drug Strategy since 1985 (lapsed in 2016). We have a well-established peer-led drug user org network (AIVL); world-class researchers and other AOD sector professionals, who have the capacity to implement life-saving harm reduction measures like drug checking almost immediately; but too often media and officials seem to focus on the morality of drug taking, and there's a lack political bravery for reform and cooperation from law enforcement—consequently, in Australia this important health and human rights matter is overtaken by pressure for a ‘zero tolerance' approach to policing, rather than employing a balanced supply reduction strategy.
Through my role with DanceWize (ie. as a 'trip-sitter' or my favourite is ‘psychedelic midwife’) and as a community lawyer, I have two distinct lenses to view the inadequacies of and opportunities for Australia’s drug policies: our laws continually seem to harden, emphasis is on the punitive, rather than preventative, nurturing, and empowering measures like honest and credible education. For example, in recent years DanceWize has focused on promoting consent culture as important like avoiding STIs through practising safe sex. Yet, it's challenging promoting such a value in party settings, when law enforcement operations undermine the importance of full consent 1000s of times annually with sniffer-dog-prompted strip searches conducted near or upon entering an event (note. 3-in-4 detections are false-positive). Likewise, our medical training institutions omit adequate education on illicit psychoactive substances, as a result, I frequently observe difficult psychedelic experiences being escalated unnecessarily or too quickly. Exploring psychedelics and presenting to officials as 'strange' or 'agitated' may result in your restraint and sedation. We need to consider what impact such aggressive strategies have on the psychic landscape of events and on partygoers who may later legitimately need to engage with emergency services? At a community level, the DanceWize program adheres to the MAPS Zendo Project's 4 principles of trip sitting within practical reason, but with consideration for our contemporary setting that stigmatises drug use as immoral and inherently dangerous, psychedelic midwives must advocate for inter-agency collaborations and highlight every opportunity to choose compassion and commonsense first. As such, this trip sitting/psychedelic midwifery role isn't always afforded the space to hold neutral space; to 'sit' and not 'guide'. Instead, we often have to advocate for the best interests of our fellow Psychonaut, when medical professionals and other emergency service workers want to overtake, escalate, restrain, and incarcerate.
STEPHANIE is a passionate harm reduction advocate, community lawyer, and partygoer. She's coordinated Harm Reduction Victoria's DanceWize program and volunteered at a community law centre for almost the past 5 years, and has close to a decade's experience working in community services more broadly, including experience working and volunteering for aligned organisations internationally.