St John Ambulance ACT will continue delivering the CBR NightCrew service for at least the next three years following a successful tender bid for a $1.1 million contract.
The ACT Government had been accused by the organisation for dragging its feet on the tender process, as its previous contract was due to expire on 30 June.
The organisation was eventually given a contract extension while the tender process was underway.
St John Ambulance ACT CEO Adrian Watts said while the process at times had been frustrating, there was no bad blood.
“I’m glad they heard our calls months back to say ‘we’ve got to get on with this and secure this for the team and for the ACT’, and we’ve followed through with what I think is a great agreement,” he said.
The fact the contract would be for three years – rather than a 12-month contract with multiple extensions as had previously been the case – was also welcome news.
Mr Watts said this surety of continued cash meant the organisation could make plans to expand the service and consider what innovations could be implemented.
“When you’ve got a three-year contract it’s a lot easier to work and build on what you’ve got, so we’ll be doing that over the next few months,” he said.
“We do need to provide more and more training as things do get more complex, so that’s one part of what the funding allows us to do.”
The service gives those out for a night on the town in Canberra a place to go if they need help and don’t want to go to police.
It follows a harm minimisation approach for those impacted by excessive alcohol or drug consumption: contacting a person’s family or friends, providing sober-up support and first aid, and de-escalating potential violent incidents.
During the summer months, crews respond to more than 2500 incidents.
CBR NightCrew team leader Josh Yeend said he was extremely happy to know that he and other volunteers could continue being there for those who needed a helping hand.
“You hear their stories, what’s brought them to that point,” he said.
“In some cases it’s a messy night and not their fault, something’s gone wrong. And other cases it may be a repeated behaviour, and so to be that ongoing support for them and to be able to refer them to other services and encourage them to seek help outside of NightCrew is really rewarding.”
Mr Yeend said knowing the funding could be used to further expand volunteers’ skills would make the job even more attractive for those considering to join the team.
“Being able to offer greater scope of training – advanced response training, additional leadership training – means we’re going to get volunteers coming back to the program, wanting to be involved and being passionate about what we do out there.”
Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury also expressed his satisfaction that St John Ambulance ACT would continue providing the service.
“The role this team plays, being that safe point of contact, intervening to help people [or] potentially helping to avoid a situation from becoming a lot worse, is a wonderful contribution to our community,” he said.
“It means where someone might have misjudged it, had one drink too many or whatever the circumstances might be, there’s a set of guardian angels there for them that can be an important point of intervention to help keep our community safe.”
He admitted while things could have moved faster through the public service in regards to the tender process, it was also something that needed to be given the right amount of time to ensure it was a thorough process.
“With the benefit of hindsight I think this [tender process] would have started a little bit earlier, but there’s been open communication along the way on where things are up to,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“Procurement processes do take a long time and there’s a lot of public discussion about procurement at the moment, people expect procurement to be done openly and thoroughly as well.
“So there’s always a tension in these things but I think a fair, open process has been run and St John has proven their skills and their attributes in winning that tender. And I’m very pleased they have.”
CBR NightCrew operates a safe space behind Platform 5 of the Civic bus interchange on Mort Street, and is staffed between 10 pm and 2:30 am on Thursdays (in daylight saving months) and 10 pm to 4 am on Friday and Saturday nights.