Safe Space Volunteers Morning Tea

(10.30am, Lord Mayor's Reception Room)

Thank you and good morning, everyone, and welcome to Town Hall.

I'd also like to acknowledge all our partners in the Safe Space pilot program:

  • NSW Attorney-General, Brad Hazzard and the Department of Justice
  • The NSW Police
  • The Thomas Kelly Foundation
  • The Salvation Army
  • The staff of St Vincent's Hospital
  • Our own City staff and most especially,
  • You wonderful volunteers who have made this program such an outstanding success

The pilot program began on December 5 last year and was due to finish on February 21, but we have decided to extend it until May 30 to allow the service to keep running while an evaluation is made and recommendations for the future of the service are put to Council.

A number of bodies came together to make this program happen. The Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation has been a consistent advocate for a safe space in the city. The Department of Justice asked the City to implement a pilot program as part of the CBD Entertainment Precinct Plan of Management; the City and the Department joined forces to fund the Salvation Army to run the pilot, and the Salvos provided team leaders and recruited volunteers.

The results have certainly been impressive.

A bus and gazebo in Sydney Square gives a safe space for people to receive basic first aid, charge their telephones, rehydrate with some water and generally be safe from harm.

There are also Take Kare Ambassadors working with team leaders along George Street, from Haymarket to Martin Place. Over 130 have now been trained to work as volunteers and multi-task brilliantly! They give support to young people made vulnerable by alcohol; the give directions, provide information on late night transport, escort people to transport, provide basic first aid; help people find their friends or telephone their families and refer them to the Safe Space to rest and sober up.

In its first three months, the program has given support to over 1,800 people - plus an estimated 300-plus people who were helped on New Year's Eve. That's over 1,800 people who could potentially have come to harm, who could have become another tragic story for the next day's news broadcasts.

It wouldn't happen, of course, without the volunteers - all 130 who have worked over the last 10 weeks, with at least 14 people working on the street each night, of which only three are employed by the program. The rest are all volunteers, which is a great tribute to the spirit of Sydney and the generosity of its people.

It's good to know that more than 100 more have expressed interested in volunteering, but are yet to be trained and this important service will continue into the future.

So from us to you, a very sincere thank-you for your generosity.