Our community has always been a world leader in the way we respond to drug issues. Our parties and major events are amongst the largest in the world but are also acknowledged as some of the safest. Over the years, drug education campaigns and the provision of medical assistance are just two of the many initiatives that have been put into place that many Sydneysiders now take for granted. One of the more recent strategies that has proven to be extremely successful is Drug Rovers.

ACON’s volunteer Drug Rovers work as an extra set of eyes and a support team for the Mardi Gras Medical unit at large GLBT dance parties. Rovers are part of ACON’s harm reduction outreach service and look out for people in trouble as a result of alcohol or other drugs. They are able to call for immediate medical assistance or to assist people to walk to the medical tent or simply go outside for some fresh air.

The Drug Rovers are an important initiative of ACON developed in response to GHB issues in late 2003 and are now a familiar part of large dance parties. ACON rosters on Rovers in pairs for two-hour shifts and the Rover service has grown over recent parties with all volunteers now sporting fluorescent vests so they can be easily spotted by Medical and partygoers. When the Rover service began, volunteers were mainly looking for people in an obvious state of trouble or who looked like they were about to need urgent medical assistance. ACON now finds that many partygoers are approaching Rovers to seek help for a friend or someone else they have spotted at the party. It’s great to see the community so supportive of this initiative and to know so many people are keen to help look after each other.

About 80 people have volunteered as ACON Drug Rovers in the past 18 months and the key to being a great Rover is being friendly, assertive and observant. The Rovers are not security and are only there to make sure everyone is having a good time. ACON Drug Rovers do not provide a medical service, they are simply looking out for people and getting them to the medical service if they need it.

In the lead-up to this year’s Mardi Gras period, ACON is looking for more volunteers who would like to be a part of this valuable service. We are particularly interested in finding some of the older party people who may have drifted away from the scene but would be interested in offering their services for a couple of hours at a range of events that will be taking place in the coming months. ACON will be holding a training day on Saturday 5 February. Anyone interested in joining this wonderful group of volunteers can email rovers@acon.org.au.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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