“Do you know much about ecstasy?” Said a very anxious looking man on the pavement as we were both entering a dance party in the early 90’s. Pretty soon we established that he had taken a pill for the first time and had lost his friends in some unexpected mayhem. He was scared because he was having a highly visual experience, he was sweating like crazy and he knew he couldn’t cope alone.
He settled a bit when I asked him reassuringly if he would like to come back to my car where he could regain his composure away from the mass of people and thumping loud music. I put the air-con on, some soothing music and gave him water to cool down. It took some time, some highs and lows, laughter and fright! We talked some serious sense and some absolute hilarious nonsense and then eventually the stranger decided that he might be ready to try and party. We made our entrance and danced together until he was okay and then drifted apart to enjoy what was left of the night.
This was one of many encounters that I had in that era. I seemed to be a magnet for ‘out of it’ folk… so much so that my friends once brought me a nurse’s uniform to wear to the Mardi Gras party!
Rovers in the beginning
Around the early 2000’s GHB hit the scene pretty hard. At that time it became more common for people to “drop” (lose consciousness) after taking GHB and the hospitalisation of clubbers and party goers became a more common occurrence. ACON’s Rover program was set up in 2003 as a community response to a number of serious incidents involving GHB.
I’d been involved as a volunteer for ACON before the Rovers program commenced – I was on the committee for the first Hand In Hand Party, this was one of ACON’s major fundraising events for 12 years! This said, I can still remember the day I first saw an ACON advertisement recruiting for the Rovers in the community press. These volunteers would be trained to work at parties to ensure the safety of our community members. Yippee-ei-o! I jumped at the opportunity!
Becoming a Rover
To become a Rover I needed to first attend a training course. The course taught me everything that I needed to know about parties, drugs and how best to approach patrons in need of some help.
I have to confess, when I first attended the training it was daunting. I stood outside waiting for the session to commence, alone and worried about what I was getting myself into. Loads of questions were swirling through my mind. I thought: ‘am I the right kind of person for this?’, ‘How much do I really want to commit to?’, ‘Will I handle such a position?’, ‘Am I too old for this?’
As soon as the training started the answers were immediately clear: I was in a room of great, like-minded people who all wanted to be part of a team trained to help our community.
A roving shift works like a well-oiled machine. It begins with a briefing which covers any issues that rovers need to be mindful of when volunteering at a party. We are then given condoms, a torch, water, a large “sabre” like battery operated light wand and cooling fans.
We always rove in pairs, keeping our eyes out for any hazards or people who might need our help. Rovers are the eyes and ears for the medical personnel who are on hand at every party. Rovers have become part of the very fabric of the events we attend and we are encouraged to have and be fun!
Rovers wear a very bright distinguishable pink vest. The pink vest identifies us as being Rovers and part of ACON. Our uniform attracts immediate attention and is the source of many encouraging comments like “thank you ACON,” and “love you Rovers!”
People recognise our pink vest and are now very comfortable to approach us and seek assistance for themselves, a friend or a stranger in need.
Why I love Roving
Being an ACON Rover is my most cherished volunteering position. You get to help people and attend great parties for free! I have met fabulous people while being a Rover and I am grateful for the friends I have made through Roving.
What Lifesavers are to the surf, Rovers are to LGBTI dance parties!
If you’d be interested in Roving for ACON, I encourage you to email firstname.lastname@example.org and express your interest. The team will get back to you as soon as possible to organise your intake!