11 December 2020

A night on the town through the eyes of the night crew

| Michael Weaver
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St John Ambulance Nightcrew

Members of the St John Ambulance CBR Nightcrew on the job in Civic. Photo: Supplied.

Hayley Thompson has had her share of marriage proposals while working as a volunteer with the St John Ambulance CBR NightCrew on the streets of Civic. She’s also had to hold on to her stomach while holding someone’s hair back while they vomit.

“I’ve been given a rose on Valentine’s Day and had a marriage proposal – he didn’t get a yes,” Hayley tells Region Media about her nights on the town where she sees the best and worst of people ‘enjoying’ their night out.

Hayley is a team leader with the volunteers she prefers to call family. They help each other to help the people who need anything from time to recharge their batteries after a big night to recharging their phones. Last year, the night crew brought 530 phones back to life.

Three St John Ambulance volunteers with the easter bunny

Night crew volunteer Hayley Thompson (2nd from right) with team members in Civic during a busy Easter. Photo: Supplied.

Hayley has been a volunteer for more than three years after joining as part of her placement during her Diploma in Paramedic Science. She is now studying a Bachelor of Paramedicine and hopes to join an ambulance service as a full-time paramedic.

She says some revellers in Civic may not notice them during their night out but may be left wondering where a bottle of water or lollipop wrapper came from.

It’s also no surprise that incidents with e-scooters are also on the rise.

“We’ve had a few broken arms and lots of scraped knees from the scooters,” says Hayley. “A couple of guys were playing chicken and neither moved, so that didn’t end well.”

READ ALSO Night-time ‘fishing’ all part of the job for Canberra’s scooter crew

The service operates from a safe space near platform five of the City Bus Station on Mort Street and is staffed between 10:00 pm and 2:30 am on Thursdays and from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am on Friday (summer only) and Saturday nights.

Their tent has chairs for people to rest, water for hydration, advice and assistance for safe transport options, basic first aid and, of course, phone charging so people can contact friends or arrange a lift home. Roving teams move around Civic and Braddon and even carry spare thongs for ladies with sore feet, along with the mandatory protective equipment, a blanket and a COVID-19 kit.

The volunteers also form a frontline with police and ambulance and prevent many incidents from escalating by just providing a friendly face or even a lollipop, of which more than 12,000 were handed out last year.

Almost 50 volunteers racked up more than 2185 volunteer hours, according to the latest figures from 2019.

Males and females aged between 18 and 25 were easily the most common group to come in contact with a night crew volunteer.

Hayley said they commonly see people affected by drugs and the crew encourages people to always be honest with what they may have taken.

“What comes out of people isn’t always trustworthy so we sometimes need to guess a little bit, but drugs are a big thing around the city. We just monitor how someone is going before making a call to bring in an ambulance or police,” she said.

Three St John Ambulance night crew members

The St John Ambulance night crew on patrol in Civic. Photo: Supplied.

The coming Christmas and new year period will again be busy for the night crew after the city largely went into hibernation during the COVID-19 restrictions. Hayley said it’s great to see people back out enjoying themselves, but the unpredictable nature of a night out always keeps them on their toes.

She says people often want to give the volunteers a hug but social distancing means an elbow bump is more socially acceptable.

“Events like Skyfire, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Christmas and New Year are always busy, but an average Saturday night can turn into mayhem in a moment and we’re picking up people and trying to find them a way home,” she says.

“You never really know what you’re going to see, whether it’s going to be a quiet night or busy, but you can usually tell by the vibe of people when they’re out.

“I’ve treated people injuring themselves trying to do a backflip to people trying to climb on the roof at Mooseheads. We see drug overdoses and sexual assaults, but I still really enjoy helping people who just need a few vomits and we send them home safely.

“For me, it’s like a sober really cheap night out. We usually have a lot of fun but we get serious when we need to and we never have the hangover the next day.”

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