City News

Another round for city Safe Space

Nate Brown (left) at the Safe Space.

By James Elton-Pym

A new late-night program aimed at curbing alcohol-fuelled violence in downtown Sydney has been extended for a further three months following a successful pilot.

The Safe Space program lets revellers take a break from the bars and clubs at a special marquee next to Town Hall, while teams of Salvation Army volunteers trawl the surrounding streets looking for those who need assistance.

“This is when they’re going to drink, they’re going to get in fights, they’re going to take drugs. This is where the bad stuff happens and where it’s most important they have people there to help them if things go wrong,” Salvation Army volunteer Ketiana Ammann said.

The Safe Space is open from 10pm to 4am each Friday and Saturday night. Phone chargers, bottles of water and thongs are all available for free.

Nate Brown, the Salvation Army’s team leader on the project, said his volunteers helped between 200 to 300 people each weekend.

He said volunteers regularly prevent fights, help women escape harassment and call taxis for inebriated youths.

“Previously the only other services available were club security and the police. Obviously those are really integral services but often you just need that middle tier of support where you can build trust,” Mr Brown said.

The program is jointly run by the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, the City of Sydney and the state government.

Liberal councillor Christine Forster said the City had “very deep pockets” and it would be “too easy” to fund the program permanently.

“We can be a fractious council at times. We’re fairly clearly divided on political lines over some issues but I think everybody in council is of the view that this is a terrific service,” she said.

Austrian backpacker Anna Marie stopped at the Safe Space to recharge her flat phone and rest her feet at around 10.30pm on the Mardi Gras festival night last Saturday.

“We don’t have this at home,” she said. “It’s awesome because they help people. Tonight my phone was dead but now I can call my people again and find them.”

The state government contributed an extra $37,500 to fund the Safe Space through to the end of May.

Mr Brown said the pool of volunteers included people from all walks of life.

“We’ve got people in their seventies who work until 4am,” he said.

In the initial 11-week pilot period over summer, 130 volunteers provided support to more than 1,700 people, including first aid to 200 people. There were 2,300 bottles of water and 250 pairs of thongs given out, as well as 170 phones charged.

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