By Wendy Rush and De Brine.
If you’re walking out of a nightclub on Hindley Street one Saturday night and happen to catch sight of some people dressed in green – it’s okay, you’re not seeing things! Clad in their distinctive green t-shirts or hoodies, the Encounter Youth ‘Green Team’ heads into the city each weekend – not to party but to patrol the street, keeping an eye out for revelers who might need their assistance.
If you or your kids have ever been to Victor Harbor for the Schoolies Festival™ you will have seen the Green Team volunteers in action. For 17 years Encounter Youth have been coordinating the South Australian Schoolies Operation, including the Schoolies Festival™ which helps manage the annual influx of 6,500 school leavers, encouraging them to party safely and minimising the impact on the local community.
In 2009, after seeing how their engagement with young people was having a positive effect at Schoolies Festival™, South Australia Police invited Encounter Youth to provide direct relief to vulnerable young people in the challenging Hindley Street social environment. They launched the Hindley Street intervention program in 2011.
Hindley Street Foot Patrol
The Green Team on Hindley is made up of around 60 volunteers from Christian communities across Adelaide and from Victor Harbor to the Barossa Valley. Two teams of four volunteers set out on foot patrol each Saturday from 11:30pm until around 5am. They carry backpacks containing bottled water, lollies, a first aid kit, vomit bags, bus tickets, thongs, tissues, hair ties, safety pins… anything that might be useful, they have it!
The average age of the volunteers is 20-28 years and while some are trained youth workers, nurses, paramedics or teachers, all of them are passionate members of their community with a heart to see change in our city. Damian is in his first year of teaching and has been involved in the program for two and a half years.
“As a Christian, I had a desire to give back to the community and make a difference. I heard about the Hindley Street Program that Encounter Youth coordinates after volunteering as part of the Schoolies Operation at Victor Harbor. I saw the real need and wanted to take action with a group of friends from my church, who were keen to get involved at the same time.
“There are heaps of memorable experiences, but the one that sticks in my mind the most happened at around 11:30 pm when we’d just begun our shift. I noticed from a distance, a young guy running across the road and I saw him get hit by a car. The car involved sped off and my team ran over to him straight away and were the first on the scene. He was unconscious, on the road and was bleeding from his head, but still breathing. I called 000 and together with my team, we stood with him and kept him safe from oncoming traffic until the ambulance and police arrived. As the paramedics were assessing him, I was keeping the injured guy’s friend company, which would have been a very nerve-racking time for him. Although we never heard if the young guy fully recovered or the extent of his injuries, it was good to see him wake up and respond to the paramedics before he was taken off to hospital.
“The reason why I love being involved in the Hindley Street Program so much is because God has changed my life. I want to live and serve in such a way that sees other’s lives changed as well, in small or big ways. It’s what Jesus has done for me that motivates me to give up my Saturday night to help young people in need. As volunteers, we want to show young people and everyone else that we engage with that we value them and aren’t there to judge them for the situations they may find themselves in. The bottom line is, we’re always there to help.”
Why not have ‘A Lighter Night’?
A key aim of Encounter Youth is to let young people know that drinking alcohol is a choice, not an expectation. If people choose to drink they want them to have a healthy relationship with alcohol. Most anti-binge drinking campaigns focus on the negative impact excessive drinking can have. After consultation with young people Encounter Youth established a positive engagement campaign to reduce binge drinking which revolves around the slogan, “Drink a little less, have a lighter night”.
Rather than simply telling young people that binge drinking is risky, the A Lighter Night campaign endeavors to give them the motivation and the tools to drink less. They promote the message that if you drink less:
- You will have more money in your back pocket at the end of the night
- Your body will thank you for it, especially the next day
- You will be a better mate in a time of need.
Once a month you’ll find the A Lighter Night Photobooth on the corner of Morphett and Hindley Streets where Green Team volunteers hand out free water, fairy bread and wristbands. Participants are directed to www.facebook.com/alighternight where they can find their photos. This also encourages them to have further interaction with the campaign.
Rebekah is part of the photobooth team. She is in her final year of a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Nutrition with plans for further study and was already volunteering with Encounter Youth when she put her hand up to get involved with A Lighter Night.
“I have a real passion in looking out for people and combining that with my desire for people to take responsibility for their own health, I really felt this program fitted me so well and I was excited to serve alongside people who shared the same interests and beliefs as me.
“We take the photobooth out once a month to help people enjoy their night even more. I absolutely love seeing people’s faces light up when we tell them we’ve prepared some delicious, free fairy bread for them to enjoy. The pure joy on their faces shows they’ve gone right back to their childhood in their mind, like it was just yesterday.”
Like Damian, Rebekah’s Christian faith is a motivating factor in her involvement with the Hindley Street program.
“I can go to God with any kind of situation, no matter what’s happened…good or bad and he accepts me no matter what. God is a friend that always cares for me and even if I’m in a bad way, he’ll accept me just as I am. So in the same way, we want people to know that if you approach a Green Team volunteer on the street, we will accept you just as you are, no matter what situation you may find yourself in and will do what we can to help you or get you the emergency service help you require. We like caring for people and are always up for even just a chat.”
A Reassuring Presence
Green Team volunteers aim to empower others to look after themselves and their mates by role modeling positive behaviour in public spaces. They provide a safe presence, a referral service and basic first aid to Hindley Street patrons, as well as being available for an encouraging chat or a ‘high five’. Their caring and friendly attitude and their approachable nature is an important factor in the Team’s success.
Many Hindley Street patrons remember the Green Team from Schoolies Festival™. Facebook comments clearly show they welcome the presence of the Green Team volunteers and appreciate the great work they do.
“Thank you so, so much for everything you guys did for me on Saturday night – I literally don’t remember a thing but when my friends told me they found me being looked after by a group wearing green I know exactly who you were! I seriously don’t know what would have happened to me if you weren’t there.”
“It’s nice knowing you guys are out there to help my friends or me if anyone drinks too much or gets into trouble. It’s always a highlight when we see you and the photobooth is so fun!”
A Collaborative Effort
The Hindley Street program is funded by the SA Government through the Attorney-General’s Department and SA Police. On the ground the Green Team works in collaboration with SA Police and SA Ambulance as well as other community agencies. The Team has been a key player in an initiative that has seen a reduction in wait time for critical incidents and an increase in rapid response of emergency services.
On a more formal level, Hindley Street Project & Volunteer Manager, De Brine leads a Key Stakeholders Group which involves representatives from the SA Attorney-General’s Department, SA Police and Adelaide City Council. De shares details of the team’s Saturday night observations and critical incident referral statistics, helping the group to stay at the forefront of improving late night safety in direct support of young people and the community.
Stop and say ‘hi’
If you’re walking out of a nightclub on Hindley Street one Saturday night and happen to catch sight of some people dressed in green – take a moment to say hello, give them a ‘high five’ or ask them how their night is going. Give them some encouragement and let them know their presence is appreciated.
Team members don’t always know what impact they have had, so if you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve been helped by a Green Team volunteer, inbox Encounter Youth’s Facebook Page and let them know how your night ended up. They would love to hear from you and to know their efforts had a positive impact on your night.
Enquiries about volunteering with the Encounter Youth ‘Green Team’ on Hindley Street are welcome, regardless of age or background. There are other volunteer roles that don’t require you to work on the ‘graveyard’ shift. Visit: www.encounteryouth.com.au/hsp-keen .
For details about the Party Safe Program or to find out more about the positive impact that Encounter Youth is having with young people in the community visit www.encounteryouth.com.au .
Find Encounter Youth on Instagram and Facebook.