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ChaplainWatch improves safety in Bundaberg CBD

NightWatch chaplain service's Sandi Blair and Andrew Steel are dedicated to helping people get home safely after late nights out on the weekend.

In a little over two months, ChaplainWatch is already reducing drunk and disorderly behaviour in the Bundaberg CBD on weekends.

Watching out for when good times go bad in the Bundaberg CBD in the late hours on Friday and Saturday nights, and the following mornings, chaplain Andrew Steel and nurse Sandi Blair are there to help those who have overindulged with alcohol or to intervene when they see trouble brewing.

This can include problem solving to ensure intoxicated people make it home safely, providing first-aid for members of the public who are intoxicated or have been injured in accidents or assaults, de-escalating aggression and tension, deterring predatory behaviour, and providing mental health care and support.

Andrew said the response to the ChaplainWatch program since its introduction to Bundaberg on November 6 at the request of the State Government had been encouraging.

“A lot of people thank us for what we’re doing,” Andrew said.

“People appreciate that we’re there to help, especially the younger ones who’ve had too much to drink and need us to help them out.

“Because they know I’m a chaplain they have a different outlook. They know we’re not the police and that we’re there to help them, not to arrest them.

“We’re not seeing brawls in areas where people congregate in the early hours after being at the clubs.”

All members of the ChaplainWatch program, conducted in designated Safe Night Precincts throughout Queensland, are trained in CPR, first-aid, mental health and managing aggression, and hold a blue card in order to work with people under the age of 18.

Andrew said since starting the program, a pattern in the congregation behaviour of late-night revellers had become apparent, helping he and Sandi to prevent tense situations escalating into violence.

“You do notice a pattern of people going from one club to another, gathering at certain times and certain places and we now know where we need to be to deal with any situations of aggression or tension,” Andrew said.

“Unfortunately, we see a lot of people who are drinking until they are so intoxicated that they can’t stand, and the concern is that they will fall and hit their head.

“We use aggression diversion measures and are constantly on the lookout for people who might cause trouble and deter them from doing things that may harm themselves or others.”

Andrew said ChaplainWatch was in the process of establishing a rest and recovery centre that would serve as a holding venue for people too intoxicated to be sent home.

“There are people who want to get a taxi but are too drunk to walk, so we help them walk to the ranks,” he said.

“But then, sometimes, they also get sick at the taxi rank, so we hang with them for a while until they recover. Generally, once they’ve been sick, they get better 15 minuntes later and start to come good.

“However, for those who are still beyond being able to go home, once we have a rest and recovery centre, we will be able to keep them there until they feel better and we can send them safely on their way home.”

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