Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre

"Turning Lives Around"

Watershed Sobering Up Centre


Watershed Sobering Up Centre Program Cut



On the 28th May 2014, media reported that the Watershed Sobering Up Centre in Wollongong would be shut on June 30th 2014.


Watershed has not been advised of this decision by The Minister for Family and Community Services, Gabrielle Upton, or by any other FACS representatives.  


Both the decision and the timing of the decision was unexpected:


Firstly, The Sobering Up Centres trial was for 12 months and the centre has only been opened for 9 months.


Secondly, the trial is only part way through a NSW Government commissioned evaluation process being conducted by a third party. The results of this (currently incomplete) evaluation were supposed to inform any decision going forwards.


In addition, staff at the Watershed Sobering Up Centre at Wollongong are currently preparing for its Quality Accreditation On Site Survey due to take place in mid-June to achieve full Quality Accreditation.


Feedback from the local community has been overwhelmingly positive towards the continuance of the centre.


The facts are as follows:


Centre Objectives:


The Centre was set up for 3 reasons:


1.  To help reduce alcohol related violence in the CBD


2.  Help free up Accident and Emergency at the Hospital


3.  Help free up police/ambulance/emergency services


Trial Facts:


·         Wollongong is the only purpose built Sobering up Centre in NSW


·         Centre is only open 2 nights per week with a small catchment area (Fairy Meadow to Swan Street with the border being the railway line).


·         The full evaluation is not finished. The trial was supposed to be for 12 months but the centre has only been open for 9 months since its launch in September.


·         Media reports today have said the Centre has only had 42 people over 9 months. Correct numbers are 67 people over the 9 months. Of the 67, five have undertaken rehabilitation and one was listed as a missing person and returned to their family.


·         15 people use the facility during the day for drug and alcohol related rehabilitation programs.


·         The centre employs a number of local people, all with significant training and expertise in alcohol and other drugs, including enrolled nursing staff.


·         The NSW Ambulance Service has only recently come on board in March 2014 with - Wollongong being the pilot project. The project was originally reliant on police-only referrals.


·         Final evaluation report not yet concluded


·         With the capital and establishment costs now spent in the set-up of the purpose built centre, the on-going operational costs are minimal and do not justify shutting the centre.




What’s Needed Now?



·        We believe that Minister Upton needs to be fully briefed as we don’t believe the Minister has all the information.


·        We believe that the model should be properly evaluated ideally on the basis that:


o   The catchment area be extended to Wollongong Police Local Area Command. So that, for example, drunk and disorderly around the hospital and outlying areas can be bought to the Centre.


o   The trial be extended by 12 months for full assessment in line with the NSW Ambulance decision and extended catchment area.


o   How the Centre will free up police and hospital resources re duty of care if catchment area is abolished be fully considered.




 How can you help Save our Sobering Up Centre?




Please join our Facebook group and let us know of your support and ideas.




Media can contact the following for more information:

Denise Everton 0417 852 442, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.









Previous Information




Three Sobering-up Centres will be trialled for 12 months as part of the NSW Government’s election commitment to tackle alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. One of these is to be based in Wollongong and operated by the Watershed Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Centre (Watershed DAREC).


Watershed Sobering Up Centre (WSUC):


The Watershed Sobering Up Centre (WSUC) will be based in the Wollongong CBD and is due to begin operations in late August/early September 2013. Before opening, the facility will be refurbished so it is fit for purpose with appropriate security, privacy, and safety considerations.


The WSUC will be an alternative to Police cells for intoxicated people over 18 that are picked up by Police on the streets or for those who self refer to the centre to be in a safe and comfortable facility while they sober up.


 1. Safety


The WSUC is designed to be a ‘safe harbour’. It could be you or your son or daughter that could drink too much on a night out in town, and the WSUC is a safe alternative to being drunk on the streets with the risk of assaults and accidents. It is also a better alternative ‘to the lock up.’ The WSUC is a place where clients are safe for the short time they may require it.


 2. Assisting Police and Ambulance Officers.


The WSUC will relieve these services of the burden of trying to get intoxicated people off the streets. The Police have had the burden of processing and potentially locking up intoxicated people as there has been no better alternative for people that are only a potential danger to themselves and others due to a night of drinking. Police and ambulance officers’ time can be better spent, and a sobering-up centre is a better place for the intoxicated clients to recover in than jail or unnecessarily clogging up hospital emergency rooms.


 3. The contribution the WSUC will make towards community safety and reduction in alcohol-related violence and injury.


This is key to the Government’s commitment with regards to reducing anti-social and violent behaviour fuelled by alcohol in our communities by providing a dedicated centre to take intoxicated persons off the street where they may be injured or cause injury to others.


 4. Watershed’s extensive expertise and experience in AOD, and the care of people with addiction issues.


Watershed is an accredited organisation and Watershed staff are highly trained and experienced. In the case where a client may be admitted to the WSUC – perhaps more than once or with other indications or concerns with regards to on-going problem drinking – Watershed staff are in a position to assist those clients who may wish to have ongoing education and/or support around addiction issues and provide harm minimisation strategies.


Additionally Watershed can provide general information and support around the effects of drugs and alcohol on physical and mental health. Watershed staff are also trained to treat those clients with both a mental health and a substance misuse issue, so clients cared for at the WSUC will be in good hands, and leave with any information they may need to seek further support on these issues in the future if they wish.


Community Information


Watershed has been and will continue to consult with the community and stakeholders about the sobering up centre. As well as having good relationships with the Police and Ambulance Service, Watershed will hold "Community Information" Forums to allow any interested parties the opportunity to ask questions and/or raise concerns. 


 General Information


Standard Operating Days From Opening: 11pm-11am Friday and Saturday nights


WSUC Phone: (02) 4226 6430


As well as special events days such as public holidays (hours may vary depending on the special event eg, ANZAC Day the centre may open earlier).


The WSUC is a customised facility to provide:


  1. A safe place for up to 12 intoxicated persons
  2. An alternative to police custody
  3. A focus on harm minimisation with overnight support for clients recovering from alcohol and possibly other drug intoxication
  4. Highly trained and experienced AOD workers
  5. Separate male and female rooms and facilities
  6. Scheduled regular observation and monitoring of clients
  7. Safe storage lockers for client possessions
  8. Shower and toilet facilities
  9. Laundry facilities
  10. Disabled access
  11. Hydration and Nutrition as required
  12. A brief intervention upon leaving to talk to the client, and the client will be provided with an Exit Pack with information and/or referrals to appropriate treatment services.
  13. A follow up service will be provided if the client wishes further support.

Watershed acknowledges the traditional custodians of country and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

Watershed holds accreditation with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Formerly: Wollongong Crisis Centre

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