A festival organiser who has seen four drug-related deaths at his events over 20 years has strongly criticised Australia's approach to harm minimisation - saying they are "years behind" other countries.

This morning, an inquest into NSW music festival deaths heard from Simon Coffey, the director of Q-dance Australia - which runs Defqon 1.

It was this festival where Diana Nguyen, 18, and Joseph Pham, 23, suffered MDMA overdoses and later died on September 2018.

He said the deaths of two young people at the festival had left him "absolutely devastated" and that all future events are now on hold until the inquest's findings are published.


He also told the court how he has attended Defqon events in Holland for the past 12 years and noticed the major differences between the event there, and the one he organises in western Sydney.

At the three-day 150,000 capacity European event, which is much larger than the one-day 30,000 people festival in Sydney, he said you could "put money" on there being no drug fatalities.

"The festival culture (in the Netherlands) is 100 times bigger, but they have no fatalities," he told the court.

He said he attended this year's Defqon in Holland - where he said he didn't see a single police officer over the three days he was there.

There were no fatalities, despite the fact there was an intense 30C heatwave.

He said the culture in Holland is more "open and honest" when it comes to drug use.

As an example, he said festivalgoers there are more likely to be greeted with a hug from harm reduction professionals on their way in and out of the event - rather than a "wall of police, riot police and drug dogs".

Defqon victim Joseph Pham pictured with Jasmine Duong at Defqon 2016. Photo / Supplied
Defqon victim Joseph Pham pictured with Jasmine Duong at Defqon 2016. Photo / Supplied
Diana Nguyen died at Defqon last year. Photo / Supplied
Diana Nguyen died at Defqon last year. Photo / Supplied

"It's a very intimidating for young people (in Australia)," he said. "I don't feel like they feel confident approaching a police officer because they think they'll go to jail."


Coffey said there is a government-run app in Holland that alerts users to dangerous drugs that might be circulating, such as PMA, which is often sold as "MDMA", but is far more toxic.

The court heard PMA was responsible for the death of a young man at Defqon in 2013. There was a further fatality at Defqon in 2015, when another young man was found dead in his tent after a suspected MDMA overdose.

Coffey told the court he believes that authorities in Australia are struggling to reach young people with messages about the harm of MDMA.

"The government is quite far removed from this audience and because we (Q-dance) are the closest to this audience we can provide the most credible information that they will consume," he said.

The evidence was given as part of a two-week inquest into the deaths of six young Australians at NSW music festivals.

Yesterday, the NSW's Coroner's Court in Sydney's west heard from a doctor who treated Pham and Nguyen at Defqon. He described the frantic moment the pair were brought into the medical tent in quick succession.

Dr Andrew Beshara told said he was contracted to provide medical services at the festival, but had "limited experience in providing critical care".

He said he was the junior of just two doctors in the tent where the pair were taken after suspected overdoses. The festival was attended by more than 30,000 people.

He told the court the medical team was "extremely busy" on the hot and dusty September day and he was constantly dealing with cases of asthma attacks and dehydration.

The inquest is examining the deaths of Nguyen, Pham, Callum Brosnan, 19, Josh Tam, 22, Alexandra Ross-King, 19, and Hoang Tran, 18 - who all died due to drug overdoses over two festival seasons.