Time to take action to ensure young people feel safe to move freely in our community

Heather McNab
(Australian Associated Press)


Almost half of young Australian women feel unsafe walking by themselves after dark, a new survey has found.

Mission Australia asked nearly 30,000 teenagers aged between 15 and 19 about their values, concerns and aspirations.

It found the girls were less likely than the boys to believe people in their local area could be trusted, less likely to feel comfortable using public spaces, and less likely to feel safe walking alone after dark.

Almost 47 per cent of the girls felt unsafe or very unsafe walking alone after dark, compared to 18.1 per cent of boys, the annual report – published on Wednesday – found.

More than 70 per cent of boys said they felt comfortable or very comfortable using public spaces, compared to 63.1 per cent of girls; and 42.1 per cent of boys agreed or strongly agreed they can trust people in their local area, compared to 35 per cent of girls.

As a consequence, girls are “less likely to be able to access the same opportunities” as boys, the report says.

It follows a similar survey by Plan International Australia and Our Watch in 2016, which found nearly a third of respondents believed girls should not be out in public places after dark and about 23 per cent thought they shouldn’t travel alone on public transport.

“The lack of trust and safety evidenced in these studies have major implications for young women’s public engagement and participation, their access to spaces and services, and their ability to move freely in public places,” Mission Australia’s report says.

Mission Australia chief executive James Toomey said it was time to take urgent action to ensure all young people feel safe to move freely in their communities.

“We should not accept that young females are feeling such low levels of safety as the norm, and we need to ensure young people can thrive in their communities,” Mr Toomey said in a statement.

The report has made seven recommendations, including the need for better access to evidence-based, gender-sensitive mental health prevention programs.


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