[author]Story & photo Eve Jeffery[/author]
Deborah Pearse, Jemma Brunell and driver Fi Hunter spent the evening keeping a watchful eye on the youth celebrating New Year’s Eve in Byron Bay and handed out food and water in the hopes of curbing some of the effects of the over-consumption of alcohol.
Though police in the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command praised the general behaviour of revellers, these staff from Byron Youth Service Outreach Bus saw a different view.
‘We were sober on the night so it’s always difficult to be in a really drunk crowd when you’re not in the same condition,’ said Ms Pearse. ‘Perhaps there was a family ambience earlier in the evening in Byron; we weren’t there till later’.
Few locals attended
Deborah says that after checking on the regular kids in Brunswick Heads, they got to Byron by around 10.30pm.
‘There were a lot of people and it was quite difficult to make our way through the crowds. We saw virtually no people from the area and lots of locals have told me since that they left around 10pm because they could feel the energy changing. Quite a few people, including guys, said they didn’t feel safe in that crowd.’
The trio say they saw lots of pushing and shoving and had people crashing into them.
‘The rubbish, bottles and cigarette butts being chucked on the ground was mind-boggling. We heard lots of glass smashing and physically saw guys drop bottles and smash them or actually throw them.
‘The bins on Monday night in the top park were still overflowing and there is still rubbish all along Ewingsdale Road, the path to Tallow and lots of streets around town.’
Byron Beach Hotel manger and president of the Byron Liquor Accord Elke van Haandel said that she had seen many family groups earlier in the evening but had not been among the crowds later on.
‘I was actually impressed with how little they seemed to be drinking.’
Bottlos shut by 9pm
‘The bottle shops all closed at 9pm so there was no opportunity for people to purchase liquor after that; they would have had to have brought it in with them.’
Ms van Haandel said that many of the locals would have the opportunity to be at home at with family and friends for the celebrations which would explain the predominance of visitors in the CBD. She said it was the reluctance of people to buy a ticket into a licensed venue which saw so many people on the streets.
The BYS crew said that from their perspective it was the out-of-town mid-20s to mid-30s men who were by far the most intoxicated, aggressive, disrespectful and the main culprits for littering.
Ms Pearse says that though the entertainment was good it drew problems.
‘If you’re going to plonk a stage and a few rides with that many people around and have very little security for the numbers, then there’s nothing for people to do but drink.’
Ms van Haandel agreed with Ms Pearse that the rides catering to younger children and the live music didn’t leave the crowds with much else to do after it was finished.
Deborah says it was not a NYE problem but indicative of a larger picture.
‘There were just more people on the night so an increase in all the issues we experience all the time and at the heart of those issues are alcohol misuse and a complete disrespect for the town.
‘The NYE crowd was better than many we’ve worked in.
‘For us, we’re trying to set a good example for young people and at the BYS we have so many programs targeting binge drinking, but when they see that many adults behaving in this way, it’s a pretty big call to expect them to be different’.
Image: BYS outreach volunteer bus driver Fi Hunter with youth workers Jemma Brunell and Deborah Pearse.