Looking at Kings Cross nights, from both sides

January 12, 2014

Sydney Morning Herald

Tom Crookes

It’s midnight and I have just parked my car to make my way slowly up the hill towards the nightclub strip in Kings Cross.

The fight is over and the poor kid is lying there beaten and bloody.

After all the recent incidents of violence and injury, why would one possibly come here?

I work as a nightclub DJ, paying the bills for the medical degree I undertake by day. Now in my penultimate year of studies, a large portion of my learning is at the renowned St Vincent’s Hospital, just 500 metres down the road. It is a juxtaposed lifestyle that, over the past few years, has shown me an ugly side to our incredible city.

On the way to the venue I’m playing at, I pass a girl slumped in the bushes, her friend holding back her hair as she vomits up a green tinged liquid, undoubtedly a bit of bile and a few too many Midori lemonades consumed without a good dinner beforehand. On the bench are two young people kissing, a few more sitting on the street corner and a dozen cabs lined up waiting to take home those who partied too hard.

But the clubs are only just starting to reach their peak.

At the traffic lights, a line of supercharged cars with muscled-up guys and loud blaring music pass by, their occupants leaning out the windows to yell expletives at the girls in the gutter.

Two hours later, having played my gig to a great crowd, out enjoying themselves with their friends, it’s a different world stepping out onto the street. The clubs have enforced their regulated 2am lockout – strictly no patrons into the venue, and no re-entry for existing patrons. It is a measure designed to prevent intoxicated people from sticking around the area, but in reality all it does is push people out on to the streets, all at once.

It is absolute pandemonium.

Drunken people line the street while burly security guards in flak vests usher them further away from the nightclub entrances.

This is no anomaly; this is every single weekend in Kings Cross. This evening, once again it is a young guy, out for a good night with his mates, who is set upon by a group of huge, angry men.

With no nightclub entry stamps on their wrists, these thugs haven’t come to Kings Cross to party, rather they are here to start fights – for fun.

When you see these things first hand you want to be the man to step in and stop it. Then you remind yourself that the chances of both you and the poor young guy ending up down the road in matching surgical robes and bleeding on the brain are too high.

By the time you have weighed up the consequences the fight is over and the poor kid is lying there beaten and bloody and the group of men are off to blend into the crowd and the night.

I run towards the kid, telling him to stay on the ground as he tries to get up and walk it off, the alcohol numbing his senses and his response to pain. Within minutes the police arrive, followed shortly by the paramedics. I tell them what I saw, and the basic first aid I have administered.

And then I am free to head home, feeling like an absolute coward.

It is only the next morning when I hear from my senior colleague that the young kid suffered a fractured jaw requiring surgery that I realise that it shouldn’t be my job to stop this.

This time the kid will live, but for the remainder of his life he will show the scars of a night out that should never have ended this way.

I see these violent encounters every weekend and then on Monday morning, in the intensive care and emergency departments, I’m greeted by the vicious aftermath. We hear the tragic stories of victims like Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, with the emergency units packed full of the seriously injured whose stories we will never hear.

These perpetrators never get to see the damage they inflict on a young person’s life; unfortunately I do. The grief of a family as they struggle to come to terms with the completely nonsensical nature of their child’s injury is truly heartbreaking. When you see both sides you realise, sooner than most, that enough is enough.

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