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A sanctuary to be someone else

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When Andrew Bruun walked into the YSAS Residential Withdrawal Unit on Gertrude Street, he immediately noticed a big guy in baggy basketball shorts and a singlet with the bulging muscles and demonic tattoos of an outlaw.

“I thought he might be a bit of a handful, so the first thing I did was to go and introduce myself to all the kids, but particularly to him,” says Andrew.

That evening Andrew sat down with the young man for a chat. He had come from a provincial centre in country Victoria, where he had accumulated an extensive criminal record and was known by the nickname ‘Nutter’. He had once stabbed someone through the breastplate with a screwdriver and was regarded with fearful respect in his home town. “I could stand over any one of the kids in here,” Nutter said to Andrew. “But I choose not to.” 

He said that where he was from people knew his reputation and expected him to be tough and mean. “But when I’m in here, it’s my sanctuary. And I don’t want to be like that in here. People treat me different, so I treat them different.” As they continued to talk, Andrew learned that Nutter had a baby on the way and wanted to change his life, but he needed this special space – this sanctuary to be someone else – in order to get a foothold on a new identity.

 

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