27 June, 2021
Water, lollipops, moral support
THE Mackay Street Chaplaincy is a Christian group whose aim is“to ensure people stay safe while enjoying a night out”. Inspired by the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan the Chaplaincy sets up a tent every weekend in the Mackay CBD to offer cups of water, lollipops (for energy) and kind words to partygoers who may have been partying just a little too hard. DAVID LORNIE tagged along with them last Saturday night.
IT’S A chilly night in the CBD
and I’m accompaning the Mackay
Street Chaplaincy as an observer
on their early shift – early being a
euphemism for 10pm til 1am.
I meet up with the team, which
includes two new recruits – Tony
and Alex, who are also designated
observers for the night – just before the 10pm briefing.
Chaplaincy Roster and Training Co-ordinator Niki gives us a
quick overview and signs us in.
Niki, regular volunteers Nathanea and Andrea, and paid Chap-
lain Rex put on purple jackets.
We observers are given pink vests to wear – not my first choice in garment colour.
I make a lame protestation to
that effect and am told that “it
takes a real man to wear pink”.
On goes the vest.
We then gather in a circle for
prayer and it’s time to hit the
The team set up the tent and
trolley laden with supplies – water, lollipops, first aid gear, tissues
and a container of thongs.
I discover the reason for the thongs later in the night.
It’s cold, really cold and although I’m wearing a fleecy hoodie, I can still feel the bite.
vest is no help.
The temperature, however
doesn’t appear to bother the folk
on the street who are, for the most
part, dressed in short sleeves and
Within a few minutes of setting up, our first customers turn
up – a couple of teenage guys
who ask for lollypops, then cruise
They, like the rest of the people
around us, are in a good mood.
Groups of excited young girls
and boys waltz past, letting out the
When they en-
counter someone they know it is
with exaggerated hugs and overly
sincere declarations of love.
Three very young boys on
scooters drift past, cheeky grins
on their faces as they check out
They should be at home in bed.
The two lollypop guys turn up again, lollies in their smiling mouths, for a chat...just passing time.
A group of
cops troop by,
head at the
as they pass.
An acoustic version of Cold Chisel’s Khe Sahn wafts from the top floor of the recently opened Palace Hotel where a local singer and his guitar are entertaining the crowd.
As the song finishes and an
AC/DC song begins, a gothic girl
with orange hair and a large tattoo on her barely-covered chest
She is accompanied by
a boy who looks more sporty than
He’s drunk and somewhat
unsteady on his feet.
“I promise, I’m not that drunk,”
he says without being asked, then
almost falls over.
It’s 10.15pm and time to go on
Tony, Rex, Nathanea and I
walk up the street, people greeting
us with smiles as we go.
“LOVE THE PINK UNIFORM, FELLAS,” chuckles a
well-dressed and clearly heterosexual bloke.
We smile at him and I remind
myself that it takes a real man to
We approach Mojo where Rex
has a chat with the bouncers and
asks if they’d like a lollipop.
“Nah, I’ve had enough sugar tonight,” comes the friendly reply and we move on.
Walking up River Street, we
are quickly overtaken by a group
of rough looking teen lads, one
with the most magnificent mullet
I have seen in a while.
Moving forward, we walk past
The Empire where the DJ is loudly pumping out a metal rap song
and we encounter three bearded
clearly been en-
joying a drink
and are quite
"Got any water?” they ask
and Rex advises
them they will
find it at the
you got, then?
Lollypops? How am I looking?”
We leave them to compare
fashion notes and move forward.
“CHAPLAINS ARE O.G.,”
comes a shout from up the road.
Original Gangster – a declaration
of respect from the street.
It’s 10.40pm and we walk past Moss on Wood where we can hear Mango Junction belting out covers of various rock hits.
“Pink men,” smiles a lady as
We smile back.
By 10.50pm we’re back at the
tent, feeling a bit warmer for the
I watch couple of punters
drinking water from plastic cups
and chatting with each other as
an excited young lady races over
from the slowly filling kebab
“Got any duct tape?” she asks.
My mind is now imagining scenarios as Rex starts looking into his bag of tricks.
“My friend broke her heel,”
she explains, prompting Rex to
reach for the box of thongs.
Broken heels are not an unusual occurrence, it seems, and a pair
of thongs will protect the soles of
But it means either an
early end to the night or a taxi ride
back home for a new pair of heels.
Rex hands over some safety
pins which have been known to do
the trick and the young lady races
off to find her friend.
Three rather cold-looking
girls are the next to approach and
they’re after a sugar rush to help
stave off the cold.
would work just as well, but I feel
this probably misses the point.
They are handed a lollipop
each and walk away smiling.
It’s not yet midnight and,
across the road, we’ve sighted our
A young girl has her head
lodged in a nearby flowerbed
and she’s stoically emptying the
contents of her stomach onto the
flowers whilst her friends rub her
A Chaplaincy volunteer goes
over and offers her a water which
she declines, saying she’s perfectly ok.
But her attempts to stand
are unsuccessful so she makes a
deal with the volunteer.
“If I can’t walk in a straight
line I’ll drink some water,” she
She stands up bravely, prepares
to walk the straight line and fails
to even put one foot in front of her.
“OK, I made a deal,” she concedes.
Her friends help her to a sit-
ting position and water is brought.
A few sips later, she’s ready to get amongst it again. It’s time now for another patrol and we walk up Victoria Street towards Night Owl which, by now has crowds gathering around.
“Outside Liquid, Rabbit Hole,
Night Owl, this is Party Central,”
“When people get
sick of shouting to be heard they
come outside here so they can
hear what each other is saying.”
He stops his explanation to
greet an acquaintance, a lone
“Doing alright, my man?” he
Rex smiles warmly and we
DARK AND QUIET
Heading left at Night Owl we come to the bus stop which is dark and quiet.
Rex explains that this is
a favoured chill-out spot for those
seeking temporary respite from
the noise and lights.
There are two big girls sitting
there, one of whom tells us she
has just arrived from Melbourne,
but feels colder here than she did
in the Victorian capital.
“Why am I cold?” she asks.
“Got a lollypop? Yeah? Great.”
I’ve worked out by now that
lollypops have magical heating
It’s 11.15pm and we’re back
near Moss on Wood.
A few people
fall out of a cab, one of them say-
ing, “Good to see you guys, hey.”
We slowly make our way back
to the tent and by 11.30pm I’m
I want to go home but I don’t want to be a quitter.
I contemplate a coffee but fear it could keep me up all night.
As I ponder this out loud, Niki tells me she no longer drinks coffee but says if I have one now it will get me across the line without keeping me up all night.
“You’ll use the energy getting
out and about here, so you’ll be
able to sleep,” she says.
It sounds like good advice so I make myself a coffee using the hot water thermos stashed in the tent for volunteer use.
I finish the hot drink and am enjoying the caffeine buzz when my missus rings.
She’s been drinking
bourbon at home and wants to talk
about something that could have
waited till tomorrow.
I tell her we’ll discuss it in the
morning and say good night.
A sober lady (I know this to be
true because she tells us) rocks up
with three drunk friends (I know
this to be true because they are
loud and wobbly).
The sober lady looks agitated.
Escorting drunkards all night
whilst not drinking will do that to
“I’m the designated driver,”
“So I need a water and I
am not paying for it.”
She produces her own bottle and gestures for it to be filled, then gathers up her merry band of drunks and heads off, scowling.
Midnight strikes and, as if to mark the transition into Sunday, someone drops a full beer bottle on the pavement next to the tent.
It explodes, sending glass shards
and foam across the pavement.
Niki springs into action, politely asking people to move back and telling them not to help her as she cleans up the shrapnel.
Across the road a long line is forming outside the kebab shop.
A sad-looking girl, whose voluptuous figure is struggling to
remain inside her skimpy dress,
tells us how wonderful the Street
“You volunteers are so amazing,” she say, “I want to do it,
too. I dont really drink much but
I just broke up with my boyfriend.
I drank three bottles of wine.”
She then proceeds to outline
the events leading to the break-up
and subsequent wine consumption.
The festivities are kicking up a
gear and, though its been a while
between sightings, another mullet
strides purposefully past the tent –
this one entering mohawk territo-
ry with its shaved sides.
It’s time for another patrol and
there are more people congregating on the streets, looking out for
fresh air, food and conversation.
“When do you get a purple
one?” asks a passerby, pointing
at my pink vest as we walk into
Moss on Wood for a toilet break.
We stay inside long enough to hear Mango Junction playing Bryan Adam’s Summer of 69 and a Powderfinger song.
We then head back out to the
street and walk past the long
line of people trying to get into
It’s now 12.50pm and time for the first shift to head back to the office to sign off for the night.
For those flitting past us, chattering excitedly, it looks like the night is just beginning.
As we walk slowly down the road to the Street Chaplaincy office we see a rough-looking young guy in a flanno and heroic mullet engaged in what appears to be a heated exchange of words with a girl.
We slow down and Rex asks
the guy if he is ok.
He looks up, offers a crooked smile and delivers, in a bold Shakespearean tone, the most eloquent words I’ve heard all night: “My Friend, I am SALUBRIOUS!”