Many a good story starts on a dark and stormy night, and mine is no exception. Imagine walking your city streets after midnight on a Friday night. It is pouring rain, people are flowing out of the clubs and drunks are stumbling down the street.
There is a young person lying on the footpath in front of a shop. He is overly intoxicated and needs to go home, but he is too much under the weather to move himself. That is what I saw late one stormy night in February when I joined Carol Christopher, the senior chaplain and program director, and Rachel Le Poidevin, who is a volunteer, of Cairns Streets Chaplains.
The story is typical of young people enjoying themselves, having a little too much to drink and becoming vulnerable—of course through their intoxication—to assault or robbery. It is certainly a drain on police resources. But not in Cairns, where the street chaplains walk the streets of our CBD looking out for those who have partied just a little bit too hard. Chaplains will either escort them to a taxi or hang around until they can be picked up by their mum, or their family or, in more serious cases, the ambulance.
Since starting in October 2013, the street chaplains have had a profound impact on our city. Between 2013 and 2014 crime rates in our CBD have dropped by nine per cent and the street chaplains should certainly claim a lot of credit for this. It is absolutely amazing. I would like to thank them for their valuable service and look forward to going out with them again on another night in Cairns, working with them to look after our young people.