The incredible work of those ensuring the safety of the Townsville party population. By Andrew Sands
Flinders Street East, the nightclub strip of Townsville, is easily one of the most popular attractions for the young people of the city. Of a Friday and Saturday night, the beat comes to life with university students and partygoers, all gathering to enjoy the electric atmosphere. The drinks flow, the lights flash and the crowd gets wild. Inevitably, for some, inhibitions are lost. As is the ability to stand, find your mates or stay awake. It is here that we see the incredible work of the Townsville Street Chaplains Inc. (TSC Inc.)
Since December 2010 the purple T-shirted NightLife Chaplains and Anglicare North Queensland staff and volunteers have been patrolling the nightclub precinct and offering aid to those in need. Working alongside Anglicare NQ on the Safe Night Out Program, the chaplains are a beacon for many, providing their services on Friday and Saturday nights, well into the morning, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the party population.
Since Easter 2011, they’ve worked out of a Rest & Recovery shelter set up on the side of the street to provide services such as free water for passing individuals, first aid, and a place for individuals to come and recover enough to get home safely. Whenever possible, they still patrol the streets in search of those in need of assistance and offer a calming and caring presence to the strip..
Maria Curro, a senior chaplain since the early days of the program, believes the work of the chaplains on Flinders Street East has inspired an attitude of care amongst patrons. “I love the job because it’s working as a team,” she says. “It started out [with] the chaplains keeping people safe but now it’s reversed and it’s the young people that are bringing their friends to us and the young people are coming and letting us know if they see someone in the car park or see someone that’s in danger or someone who’s going to have a fight. “The young people are all becoming like street chaplains.”
Jenni Pack, another senior chaplain and board member who’s been with the organisation from the beginning, says that the reception they receive from the public is one of appreciation. “We don’t judge. We go and we just have a calming presence on the street,” she says. “We’re out there and appreciated and so we need to direct it and continue it. This is such a worthwhile thing – to be a presence there for someone’s daughter, son, grandchild- for someone who went partying to ease the stress of their job, the pain of losing their job, their house, their child, their relationship….”
“I think it’s very important that the TSC continues to provide the volunteers from across the Churches to maintain the level of care that’s been delivered for more than 5 years. Street Chaplains take God’s love out onto the streets to people who don’t know he’s there to turn to. We show His love. We don’t preach it,” she said.
The TSC began their work when a number of individuals from churches across Townsville, acknowledged a need for care on Flinders Street East having worked in close association with Anglicare North Queensland under the Drink Safe funding, to keep party goers safe. The challenge is to provide more volunteer chaplains to complement Anglicare North Queensland’s delivery of the government funded Safe Night Out Program, into the next 3 years
More information about the Townsville Street Chaplains Inc. can be found on their website at www.townsvillestreetchaplains.org.au or by calling the Townsville office on 0437 088 462