Experts are calling for harm reduction support for young people engaging in Sydney nightlife as lockout laws and COVID-19 restrictions lift.

COO of the Stay Kind Foundation (formally the Thomas Kelly Foundation), Ms Natalie Zelinsky said, “We are going to see a greater influx of young people coming into the city to enjoy nights out with less COVID-19 restrictions concurrent to repealed laws and health orders easing.”

“This could mean increased people in distress or at risk of harm, especially to those who haven’t been to night-time venues in over a year, and those young people venturing out for the first time.”

Stay Kind operates a Safe Space Program that looks after nightlife revellers on Friday and Saturday nights who are vulnerable, in distress or at risk of harm however ongoing funding for this program remains uncertain.

A recent evaluation from The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney, has found that between December 2014 and April 2019, the Take Kare Safe Space (TKSS) program supported 66,455 people.

“Two-thirds of the people supported by TKSS were aged 18-25. Many (46%) were perceived as heavily intoxicated and at risk of harm,” said Ms Zelinsky.

The evaluation has found that the benefits of the TKSS program from December 2014 to April 2019 to the community were valued at A$7.46 million.

 “That benefit includes the value of serious harm averted and the value attached to lives saved through program interventions,” said Professor Anthony Shakeshaft, Deputy Director of NDARC.

“These results are conservative. The return on investment is likely to be higher given the analysis does not quantify the full spectrum of benefits associated with the program.”

Ms Zelinsky said, “The UNSW evaluation has proven the exceptional value that TKSS brings to the community with a return on investment in the range of $2.67 to $3.83 for every dollar spent, in addition to playing an integral role in the Sydney night-time economy, we just need stakeholders to find a long-term funding solution for provision of this program.”

In another NDARC led report, it was found that people who regularly consume ecstasy (MDMA) used less ‘party drugs’ like ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, and ketamine in 2020.

“Whilst this sounds like a positive point, as restrictions ease and young people start going out to nightclubs, we could see higher risks of harms including overdose, injuries, accidents and other related harms like fights and sexual assaults,” said Professor Shakeshaft.