Journalism and International Studies student, ex-theatre junkie, lover of doccos. Passions lie in the intersection of global poltics and social media.
A campaign is underway to reduce the number of strip searches at music festivals, after figures showed they'd doubled - in just one year.
Launched today (December 19) by the Redfern Legal Centre (RLC), the "Safe & Sound" campaign will provide legal advice to festival-goers through a website and an app.
It follows an increase in "specific and anecdotal" complaints against police, which are now the subject of an independent inquiry by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC).
There were 560 strip searches recorded in 2016. Last year, there were 1100. Between January and May this year there were already 735, and in 63 per cent of those, no drugs were found.
Under the law, police can only conduct a strip search if they believe there are serious and urgent grounds to do so.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, believes most searches fall outside that criteria.
"It's now almost an automatic escalation, particularly at music festivals," he said.
RLC Solicitor Samantha Lee, whose clients are as young as 18, agrees. She says the current law is vague and fails to provide proper safeguards.
"Young people are being humiliated and scared by the strip search process," she said.
"[Its] overuse is making people feel unsafe and making them feel as though they can't approach police."
Festival-goers are often pulled out of line as they enter a festival, then escorted to a tent and asked to remove their clothing in front of two police officers.
There are reports some have been made to squat or cough to see if they're carrying anything internally.
"In most cases after all of this has occurred, nothing has been found... but they're escorted out of the area and their ticket is confiscated," Ms Lee said.
They were not told why they were being searched. In many cases... aspects of the law were not followed.
Dylan Bortolus was strip searched at a music festival earlier this year.
He said he, his fiancè, and his 18-year-old brother, were accused of carrying illegal substances.
"We were walking to the entrance, when a police officer clicked his fingers at my fiancé and told the [sniffer] dog to sit," he said.
"The whole time, we were treated like criminals and the police officers were aggressive, calling us liars."
Nothing was found and Mr Bortolus said the process left him feeling wary of authorities.
"A lot of people have a trust issue with [police] at events because of the heavy-handed tactics they have used on innocent people who paid money to have a great day," he said.
Scott* said he was denied entry to a Midnight Mafia event after he was strip searched, even though no drugs were found.
"I was treated like dirt," he said. "I was polite and followed their orders, then once they found nothing, they told me I was being escorted off the site."
Tickets to Midnight Mafia cost upwards of $150.
David Shoebridge believes the spike in strip searches over the past two years, comes from a change in policy.
Clearly there is a far more aggressive approach from police, and for it to be so wide-spread, it must be with the support of very senior police.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, declined Central News' request for an interview but his spokesperson said: "Officers are able to search a person where they suspect on reasonable grounds [that they] are in possession of a drug, something stolen, a firearm or a prohibited weapon. There are controls and safeguards about how extensive, and on what basis, officers can proceed."
According to media reports, there have been nine drug-related deaths at music festivals, in the past five years.
In September, two people died after attending Sydney's Defqon and hundreds received medical assistance - prompting Premier Gladys Berejiklian to vow to shut down the music festival.
“Festival-goers have a right to enjoy these events without fear of harm," she said in September. "Parents and families expect us to do whatever we can to keep their children safe."
Except pill testing.
“Pill testing doesn't guarantee the safety of a drug and what might be safe for one person may not be safe for another person,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The ACT Government allowed pill testing at Canberra's Groovin' the Moo festival in April, after a trial found 40 per cent of participants were willing to change their habits when they were told what was really in their drugs.
David Shoebridge says the strip searching alternative disproportionately targets young people. Aboriginal communities are also affected, with reports children as young as 10-years-old are being strip-searched.
"I am hopeful that an independent review will change police attitudes and change policy," he said.
"It needs to change, because at the moment the police are actively destroying their relationships with young people in New South Wales.