A new council project is finding out where women feel unsafe in Wollongong in an attempt to improve local public spaces.
The Safer Cities: Her Way pilot is a collaboration between Transport NSW and Wollongong City Council. Wollongong is one of only 10 councils participating in the pilot program.
The aim of the initiative is to improve the perception of safety of women in public spaces. This month, April, is the data collection stage, and locals are able to ‘drop pins’ on an interactive map to flag areas they feel unsafe.
Wollongong councillor Cath Blakey said the initiative is important because everyone deserves to feel safe in public spaces.
“As a feminist, we’ve had years of trying to overcome self-imposed limitations as well as public safety ones, so we want people to be able to go out and experience life and move where they want to move, whenever they want, safely,” Councillor Blakey said.
She said, despite this, she is worried by some comments in the interactive map stating people feel unsafe in areas where those suffering homelessness often frequent.
“I think the Safer Cities: Her Way is a good initiative, but I really want to make sure it’s used to improve public amenity and … shift the perception of how people see a place. But I really want to make sure it doesn’t involve persecuting homeless people,” she said.
“These kinds of changes take holistic change, it’s about changing the housing service, it’s about changing drug and rehab resourcing, it’s about making sure our homeless hubs have resources.”
Women Illawarra general manager Michelle Glasgow, said the organisation has been active in this space for years and she is pleased to see the council taking affirmative action for women’s personal safety in public spaces.
“I am hopeful that this project will be effective as it is centring community consultation and experiences at the heart of the project and is looking to co-design solutions to our concerns,” she said.
Aspiring artist D’arcy Lawrence said she looks forward to seeing how the initiative plays out.
“I love to go on walks at night but rarely do due to feeling unsafe. If I could pinpoint areas that made me feel unsafe and have the council improve them, I would feel a lot better about walking at night,” Miss Lawrence said.
The initial research stage finishes April 30 and May will see walks of the flagged areas and workshops begin, with the aim of finding community sourced solutions. Starting from November, the approved initiatives will be unrolled.