The CBR NightCrew has secured its future for the next two years after the service received a $1.2 million funding boost from the ACT Government.
The volunteer service, which aims to minimise harm to vulnerable people in Canberra’s late-night entertainment area, has been funded on a month-to-month basis over the past eight months but now the significant funding will secure its future until June 2021.
Organised by St John’s Ambulance volunteers, the service has been running since late 2016, operating near Platform 8 of the City Bus Station on Friday and Saturday nights to help partygoers get home safely after a night out.
Volunteers provide advice and assistance for safe transport options, basic first aid, water for hydration, and mobile phone charging so that revellers can contact friends or arrange a lift home between 10 pm and 4 am on Friday and Saturday nights.
The ACT Government said the new contract and funding is to provide a visible and accessible service to reduce alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour and contribute to the vibrancy of the Canberra city’s late night economy.
The program’s general manager Bianca Russell has been a part of the team for the past 18 months and said the program is very dear to her heart. She likened the program to a “sober, responsible, older friend on a night out”.
“I am a staff member with St Johns but I was pretty quick to jump on board in support of the program when I heard about it because it is an amazing thing to offer the community,” she shared.
“As someone who has grown up in Canberra, we all have had nights out in the city when we might need a little bit of help. I am also a mother so I appreciate the whole caring aspect, knowing that our young people are being looked after.”
The funding will go towards the 300 bottles of water and four tubs of Chupa Chups that is supplied every weekend, along with the more gritty supplies like first aid equipment and vomit buckets.
“The funding will also go to training our volunteers and providing them with the right gear and uniforms to make sure they are all warm with winter coming up,” she said.
“We have a team of three that are paid each night and the rest are volunteers because the people that are paid have a higher role of responsibilities to manage the team and the tent.”
Since the program began, volunteers have helped more than 13,600 people on a night out, providing first aid to 1375 people, preventing 345 potential sexual assaults, involved in 372 ambulance trips and 435 police call outs.
“The night can range from people having a laugh while struggling to unwrap a lollipop and being a bit entertaining to some quite confronting stuff,” she shared. “It is a really big job for the volunteers to deal with situations that swing wildly in the space of five minutes.
“The side of preventing and harm minimisation that we provide is serious and it is an incredible thing to be able to do, knowing that we are making a difference.”
If you’re interested in volunteering email CBR.NightCrew@stjohnact.com.au or call 02 6282 2399.