Merri Creek, Coburg Safety Audit

Women’s Safety Audits: A transformative approach to safety in the city.

The online Merri Creek Coburg safety survey received over 800 responses, which was much higher than we anticipated. This demonstrates a high level of engagement from mainly local women and their willingness to reflect on their safety and offer solutions. Tapping into the local knowledge and lived experiences of women is key to improving women’s access to public spaces.

Dr Gill Matthewson

Safety for women in public spaces is complex. Women experience public places differently to men mainly because of gender-based violence and the gender-biased built environment. Women’s voices about their own safety are often marginalised and neither heard nor understood by those who determine how space is designed and governed. It is crucial that women’s voices become integrated in research and strategies to redress women’s safety issues in public space.

Women’s Safety Audits provide a proven method to ensure women’s experiences and knowledge are platformed and valued when looking to change or create public spaces. Their purpose is to garner from local female users of a place their experiences and perceptions of safety and unsafety at the site, what physical or temporal aspects are contributing to these, and what they advise would help.

The Merri Creek project in collaboration with Moreland City Council deployed an online Women’s Safety Audit to facilitate a community consultation with women who use or reside near Merri Creek in Coburg. The online format allowed over 800 local women to share their perceptions, experiences and advice for the area, democratising the process. This large response demonstrates the willingness of women to offer insights into public spaces.

Public spaces are often created and designed for a generic, allegedly non-gendered user. But given the prevalence of gender bias, a non-gendered user is a default male user. The XYX Lab leads in research and emerging methodologies that look to create safer cities for women through platforming women's voices and stories.