Friday, April 9, 2010

Violence in Public Places

Project team: Richard Eckersley, Australia 21 Director and Fellow
Lynne Reeder A21 Executive Officer

Australia, like some other countries, has experienced in recent years a marked increase in the frequency and severity of violence in public places, a problem that is attracting massive public and political attention.

In response to this situation, Victoria Police commissioned Australia 21 to conduct a roundtable on antisocial behaviour and public safety and to prepare a report on the discussions and outcomes.

The roundtable addressed the question: What are the precursors and triggers of antisocial behaviour and the options for improved policy intervention to reduce such activity in public spaces?

The roundtable was held in Melbourne in October 2008.  The 23 participants were drawn mainly from a range of relevant scientific disciplines and Victorian Government departments and agencies with responsibility for policy development and implementation. Participants and Victoria Police were given the opportunity to comment on a draft of the report, Violence in public places:
Explanations and solutions, but they were not asked to endorse or approve the final report, the responsibility for which rested with Australia 21 and the authors, Director and Fellow Richard Eckersley, and Executive Officer Lynne Reeder. The report was released on 2 March 2009.

The upsurge in public violence is not readily explained. It is possible Australian society has reached a tipping point, where the confluence or conjunction of many social changes and developments — short-term and long-term, specific and broad — has produced social conditions conducive to violence. Explanations include: changes in alcohol and drug use; the huge growth of the night-time economy; a 24/7 lifestyle; broad social changes relating to poverty and disadvantage, the family and parenting, communications technology and the media, and an individualistic, consumer culture; young people’s biological and social development; links between antisocial behaviour and other aspects of young people’s health and wellbeing; and the lack of sustained action to address the problem, coupled with a dearth of good research evidence in key areas.

When it came to solutions, some participants focused on more immediate, direct interventions to address public violence, others emphasised a broader, social development perspective. Nevertheless, most, if not all, participants agreed on the need for a multi-dimensional strategy spanning timeframes, social scales and government jurisdictions.

The Victorian Government has already implemented some of the report’s recommendations. A Federal Parliamentary committee looking into the impact of violence on young people and a Queensland Parliamentary inquiry into alcohol-related violence have considered the report. It also drew the interest of the UK National Community Safety Network, a practitioner led organisation supporting the promotion of community safety and crime reduction, which ran an article about it in its bulletin.

Australia 21 believes the project is a fitting demonstration of its mission to create cross-institutional and multidisciplinary networks to develop new frameworks for understanding and addressing important challenges facing Australia and the world this century.

Download Violence in Public Places in PDF format here.

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