In an effort to boost feelings of safety and inclusion for women in public spaces, Griffith University and Monash University have come together to create the Safe Spaces Project.
The Safe Spaces: Understanding and Enhancing Safety and Inclusion for Diverse Women report will be officially launched on Wednesday 25 October.
The online event will provide an opportunity for community organisations and local governments to discuss gender-aware design possibilities for public places and spaces.
The Safe Spaces project engaged more than 200 women from diverse backgrounds, including those from different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, life stages and abilities, to examine both the physical and social aspects of public spaces that contribute to feelings of worry and exclusion.
Through surveys, focus groups, walking interviews and a co-design workshop, the project aimed to understand women’s experiences and create strategies for improving safety and inclusion.
Project lead, Professor Rebecca Wickes of the Griffith Institute of Criminology, said the collaborative endeavour sought to provide insights into why some public areas are perceived as ‘unsafe.’
“Some women actively avoid public spaces for fear of their safety,” she said.
“Understanding both the specific physical and social elements of public places that lead to feelings of worry and exclusion is foundational for the development of place-based strategies that encourage inclusion and safety for women.
“For women in our study, connection to place and people was important for their wellbeing, safety and inclusion, with safety being seen not as something we can ‘set and forget’ but an issue to constantly be navigated.”
The co-design workshop revealed a safe public place was one where women:
- felt no fear
- felt included
- could be themselves
- could be comfortable
- were connected to other people
- were connected to nature.
Another core theme was the fear of darkness, catching public transport after dark or the unpredictable behaviours of young men.
Co-Design lead and Director of XYX Lab, Gender + Place at Monash University, Associate Professor Nicole Kalms highlighted the importance of considering co-design with women.
“The gendered safety concerns revealed by the project provided strong evidence against safety strategies that are solely concerned with ‘improved lighting’ or ‘greater police presence,” she said.
“Strategies to improve safety must be informed by women’s lived experiences and include actions that bring about stronger connections among different user groups of public spaces.”
CEO of Welcoming Australia, Aleem Ali, also emphasised the relevance of the Safe Spaces project from a Welcoming Cities perspective.
“Approaches to safety in new and existing public spaces have long needed a blueprint for inclusion,” he said.
“Designed for and with diverse community members, the Safe Spaces Report and Toolkits offer a clear framework for ensuring the safety and inclusion of all, especially women from culturally diverse backgrounds.”
With the research undertaken across three local government areas in the Greater Melbourne
Statistical Area, Colin Bostock from Monash Council said the findings from the report and the toolkits are already assisting councils in better planning for safety and inclusion.
“The Safe Spaces Project has provided councils with a range of practical toolkits to help us engage with and understand women’s lived experiences in our local community,” he said.
“The strong research and community consultation resources will lead to evidence-based strategies for our community to improve perceptions of safety for women of different ages, abilities, and cultural backgrounds.”
Safe Spaces: Understanding and Enhancing Safety and Inclusion for Diverse Women is a collaborative effort between Griffith University, Monash University, University of Sydney, Wyndham City Council, Melton City Council, Monash City Council, and Welcoming Cities.
Register for the launch event at https://events.humanitix.com/safe-spaces-understanding-and-enhancing-safety-and-inclusion-for-diverse-women.