Building safer spaces for women

(Garon Piceli via Pexels)

The biggest safety concerns for women in Wyndham are racism and vilification, darkness and isolation, and sexual assault and harassment, according to a new report from Monash and Griffith universities.

In an effort to boost feelings of safety and inclusion for women in public spaces, the two universities have come together to create the Safe Spaces Project.

The Safe Spaces: Understanding and Enhancing Safety and Inclusion for Diverse Women report launched on October 25, and provides an opportunity for community organisations and local governments to discuss gender-aware design possibilities for public places and spaces.

Project lead, professor Rebecca Wickes of Griffith’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 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 encouraging inclusion and safety for women.

“Across the project, women spoke of connection to place and people as 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 Safe Spaces project undertook research in Melton, Wyndham and Monash and engaged over 200 women from diverse backgrounds, including those from different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, life stages and abilities.

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.

According to the report a safe public place was one where women felt no fear, felt included, could be themselves, could be comfortable, were connected to other people and were connected to nature.

Another core theme was the fear of darkness or catching public transport after dark, with particular regard to the perception of unpredictable behaviours of young men.

The report was a collaborative effort between Monash University, Griffith University, University of Sydney, Wyndham council, Melton council, Monash council and Welcoming Cities.