It is 11.15pm and the Street Chaplains have just begun their patrol in Northbridge when they spot the group at a bench in Russell Square.
Street Chaplains Mike Lauer and Gaby Woermann offer their assistance.
They are equipped with a backpack full of supplies – bottles of water, thongs, sarongs, headbands, vomit bags, a first aid kit that includes an oximetre to monitor a person’s blood oxygen levels and a mobile phone to call the police, an ambulance or parents if required.
But the group rejects their offer and before Mike and Gaby are out of earshot one of the friend’s asks the girl ‘are you ready for more alcohol yet?’
It is not long before the chaplains find another girl in distress, outside an Aberdeen Street club, leaning against a wall as she cries into the arms of a man.
Gaby asks if she can help but the man, who identifies himself as the girl’s boyfriend, says they are OK.
‘As a mum I would be glad if something happened to my daughter that someone would help,’ Gaby said.
She recalls a harrowing situation from only a few months ago when patrolling chaplains found a girl passed out in an alleyway with a man stroking her.
Gaby said after questioning the man they realised he did not know the girl and he quickly fled the scene.
She said it was just one example of how easily people could find themselves in dangerous situations and possible predators out there who would take advantage of them.
Mike said out of the estimated 30,000 people who come to Northbridge every Friday and Saturday night, the majority got home without incident. He said since Street Chaplains began in 2008, he had seen violence in Northbridge decline but had expanded the patrol area into the city as new CBD venues opened.
Mike said people were rarely violent towards Street Chaplains and during his five years of volunteering, someone had attempted to attack him only once.
‘Sometimes you walk around and you’re very aware there’s tension in the air – tonight that’s not the case,’ he said.
‘A quiet night is a good night.’
– Opinion, page 6