May 23, 2024

Take Care xoxo

ACON’s Recent Harm Reduction Campaign and Rover services across Mardi Gras 2024

The glitter has indeed settled, and the Mardi Gras 2024 season is now another in a series of memories of dance floors, iconic outfits and epic harm reduction and health promotion from the ACON team.

Our Harm Reduction team –Mishy, Zeek, Rod, Paul and Gina, along with our amazing Rover volunteers and Supervisors – gave it their all this year, delivering the Rover program services, and a Harm reduction campaign: Take Care xoxo.
Read on to get a feel for the incredible impact of Harm reduction for our communities…

 

“Take care xoxo” Campaign

With support from NSW Health, the team created and promoted a harm reduction campaign titled “Take care xoxo”, with both digital and printed assets across 11 key messages. We included in this campaign two new messages that were responsive to current community need – one about the harms of mixing amyl and Viagra in response to current risks and conversations with key venues, and another about Naloxone and its benefits.

Physical posters were up at all events attended by the Rovers, as well as at venues and services around the City of Sydney and Inner West including The Lansdowne, The Lord Gladstone, The Red Rattler, The Metro, Stonewall, Bearded Tit, Club 77, Imperial Hotel, Sydney Sauna, Oxford Art Factory, Newtown Hotel, and other community spaces such as KRC, The Pride Square Activation, and Dendy Cinema Newtown.

Our digital campaign reached over 165,200 people across three weeks of promotion, with mostly organic reach, showing the willingness and effectiveness of peer-to-peer information sharing when it comes to harm reduction.

You can view the full campaign suite here.

 

Rover program services

The Rovers have been operating for 20 years, and this year, the team worked at two “Subject Music Festivals” – the Bondi Beach Party and the Mardi Gras After Party, and one smaller-ish event – Apollo, providing peer support, crowd care, overdose prevention and harm reduction consumables at all events. Rovers also provided the peer care space at Bondi Beach Party, with patrons attending the space for 1:1 peer support and intervention for anything ranging from a difficult come up, to sensory or mental health overwhelm, to feeling a bit wobbly.

To prepare for this season’s service delivery, 30 new Rover volunteers were recruited and trained into the program and 40 returning Rovers were provided refresher training.

In addition to 70 volunteers, we also had on the team 8 amazing Rover Supervisors, who provided leadership and support throughout the events.

As part of our service to these events, the team engaged extensively with event organisers, and provided consultation and input to ensure harm reduction measures were considered at every stage of event planning and delivery. It’s a huge win to work with events to utilise our expertise in this area to improve safety for our community.

 

A few stats and observations:

Total of 114 Rover shifts completed with 305 volunteer hours

2535 interactions between Rovers and patrons recorded across the three events

157 patrons received a “check in” from a Rover

344 patrons were assisted to get water / fresh air

The crowd was observed at all events to be looking after each other, and using good harm reduction to care for self and community

Lower than expected presentations and overdoses at all events – a decrease on previous years

General overwhelm / distress and distress following a police interaction were top reasons recorded for receiving peer support from a Rover

 

Naloxone

In response to a series of drug alerts and community reports of opioids showing up as an adulterant in other substances, such as methamphetamine, MDMA and cocaine, we worked closely with NSW Health, for Rovers to be trained in Naloxone and to carry the Nyxoid (nasal spray) form of naloxone during their shift. This was the first time a peer harm reduction service at a festival had ever officially provided this service in NSW and was a huge win for pragmatic harm reduction approaches. We know that party goers are more likely to chat about their drug use with Rovers, and more likely to seek help from Rovers. This puts us in a trusted and vital position to provide effective support and intervention.

It was another ICONIC Mardi Gras, and the Rovers slayed to ensure the safety and joy of our communities.

For more information on Rovers, including how to join the team as a volunteer, head here.

Or to contact the Harm reduction team, email us at harmreduction@acon.org.au