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City initiatives to support safe communities

Territorial Social Policy and Programme Development Manager

Following the successful application for $495,000 of two-year funding from the federal department of health and ageing earlier this year, The Salvation Army’s Melbourne Corps 614 street teams* (which have been operating since December 2010) were preparing to augment their service by operating on Melbourne’s railways from 1 June 2012.

Corps officer Major Brendan Nottle told e-connect last month that the innovation and extension of the street teams’ efforts ‘includes the development of the corps’ ongoing work with Sudanese youth**, as well as placing street teams on trains’ (street team members have already done trial ‘ride alongs’ with security personnel).

‘We are targeting the binge drinking of groups of young people who are putting themselves in danger,’ he added. ‘Metro and the police are dealing increasingly with kids who “pre-load” on alcohol before they hit the city. We’ll work to get them home safely and organise to meet their needs.’

The street teams’ Sudanese workers, both in the city and on the trains travelling from outlying suburbs, will foster relationships and encourage youth to participate in Salvation Army activities that are not based on or connected with alcohol consumption. One key plank in the strategy is the free 6 p.m. Monday night hip hop (African-American rap dancing) classes by Lauren Ellis from the upstaged dance company, which started at 69 Bourke Street in April 2012.

‘The class has already got a dozen regular dancers participating,’ Brendan said, ‘and it’s connected to the AXA 614 bus that travels regularly to the Flemington hi-rise housing estates to build links with Sudanese youth who are heavily into hop hop.’

Another new development in the city is the intentional fostering of community between the street team members, other Salvation Army personnel, Indian taxi drivers and security guards. ‘Liaising with the Melbourne City Council,’ Brendan said, ‘we are taking the corps’ coffee van up to the taxi rank at Swanston Street to sell hot dogs and coffee to partying young people, as a social enterprise initiative, and to provide free coffee to taxi drivers.

‘Many of these drivers are international students who are working to support their studies and are socially isolated and sometimes encounter prejudice,’ he added, ‘so we are promoting the corps international students’ ministry, The Couch, and our new nightclub venture, “Live at The Hammy”***.

Brendan explains that the corps’ ministry to the cabbies and the international students is being supported by chaplaincy of Lieut Abhishek ‘Monty’ Bhardwaj, from Carlton Corps.

‘Through these initiatives we are trying to develop a follow-up structure to the youth we meet on the streets and on the trains, linking them to an alcohol-free, “safe” venue with the Hammy.’

A central motivation for these initiatives is the recognition of abuse of girls and women that occurs in the heart of Melbourne’s nightlife. In April, Brendan explained to Melbourne’s Herald Sun media outlets that the street teams have already found opportunities to assist young women to remain safe.

‘Our teams have encountered and seen off men who single out young women to try to abduct; our role is to bear witness to the potential crime, liaise and raise it immediately with police officers and council members and staff .’

Brendan asks all e-connect readers to discuss these issues with young Australians, and encourage them if they are frequenting Australia’s cities at night to ‘be aware of who and where your friends are, and please be careful about what substances you take and put in your bodies.’

*Initially/principally funded/co-funded by the City of Melbourne, the youth street teams involve approximately 25 volunteers aged over 18. The teams travel through areas in the CBD, on foot and in vehicles, on Friday and Saturday nights from 11pm until 5am to ‘connect with vulnerable and intoxicated young people’. They are in touch with Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and other agencies, The Salvation Army’s services, including the 24-7 Melbourne Road Home accommodation service, and other NGOs.

** For more information, please see the social programme department’s others supplement, [link]
*** ‘Live at the Hammy’ stands for the live music played at Melbourne 614’s Hamodava café from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., where young people can meet safely in an alcohol-free setting.

Click here for concerns regarding interaction between Sudanese youth and police