New funding to improve safety of women at night

By Brendan Rees

The City of Melbourne will use new crime prevention funding to help improve the safety of women and gender-diverse people at night.

The $193,000 grant from the state government will go towards the City of Melbourne’s Night Justice project, with a focus on late-night entertainment precincts including the CBD, Southbank, Docklands and Carlton.

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp welcomed the funding, saying creating a safe atmosphere for women and non-binary people was “an incredibly important part of a welcoming and thriving nightlife.”

“Melbourne’s vibrant and diverse nightlife is part of our city’s DNA and is what draws people into the city after dark,” she said.

Crime Prevention Minister Natalie Hutchins said the Building Safer Community grants would give local communities “the resources they need to tackle the crime and safety issues that matter most to them.”

The funding will also support a Night Safety Summit, the development of a Night Safety Charter, the development of a sexual assault behaviour change campaign, and a Good Night Out Accreditation program.

It comes as a new Monash University study shows almost half of women and gender-diverse people don’t return to places where they don’t feel safe across Victoria.

A team of Monash Art, Design, and Architecture’s gender, design and space specialists called the XYX Lab have released interim results from a crowd-mapping website allowing users to anonymously drop a pin, and share their experience while out for leisure, sport, exercise, play or catching up with friends.

The interactive map, YourGround, has so far revealed that 40 per cent of those reporting an unsafe place did not go back alone and another 13 per cent who never went back at all.

“No lights, people [are] always hanging around whistling as you walk by or asking where you are going. Poorly lit area. Do not feel safe,” one respondent wrote about a public space at Kavanagh St in Southbank.

In O’Shanassy St, North Melbourne, another submitted, “Walking here to go to the shops down the street, makes me very uncomfortable as there is poor lighting and no one around. Have had strangers yell out at me from their car and follow behind me.”

The study also found people shared certain tactics to feel more secure in public, including:

Walking, cycling, or jogging extra-fast to get through a particular area, carrying an object that could be used in defence

Not going there in the dark or early in the morning

Changing exercise or travel routes to avoid certain areas

Not wearing headphones so they are more aware of the presence of strangers and potential perpetrators

Monash University associate professor Nicole Kalms, who is co-leading the project, said the experiences shared in the first month on YourGround indicated that upgrades and investment in public space could make a difference.

“Submissions indicate that things like well-considered lighting, murals, pedestrian crossings, better footpaths, trees, and new buildings can all increase perceptions of safety for women and gender-diverse people,” she said.

The project, which runs until July 31, is a partnership with 23 local government areas, Respect Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning, and the digital agency CrowdSpot.

The Night Justice project brings together a range of partners including Victoria Police, Crime Stoppers Victoria, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, the Melbourne Licensees Forum, and the University of Melbourne •

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