A study conducted by Plan International Australia and Monash University has revealed young women in Sydney feel the least safe in their city when travelling on public transport in the CBD at night.

The study launched in Melbourne in 2016 and has since expanded to include Sydney. It asks women aged 18 and 25 to plot their positive and negative experiences in Sydney’s public spaces on Free to Be, a digital map similar to Google Maps and designed by Plan International.

Young women were asked to drop a “good” pin on the locations they felt confident in alone and a “bad” pin on the areas they felt uncomfortable or unsafe in.

Ninety per cent of women have recorded they feel unsafe at night in the CBD, and 92 per cent say they feel uncomfortable taking public transport alone after dark. Almost half of the participants (44 per cent) say they feel uncomfortable taking public transport during the day.

Thirty-five per cent of the women who have participated say they always feel unsafe on public transport in the evening, and half say they have experienced street harassment. More than half admit to cancelling plans to go out at night because of safety concerns.

“There’s an assumption that Australian cities are safe and welcoming for girls and women. When you have 90 per cent of young women in Sydney telling us the city is unsafe for them at night, and many of those are opting out of going out altogether, it is clear this is certainly not the case,” Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said in an official statement.

STAY IN THE KNOW
Get our pick of the best news, features and events delivered twice a week

“Street harassment is a bigger issue in our country than we like to acknowledge. It has become so common that it’s seen as part of the daily experience of a woman here in Australia. Girls here and abroad have told us they don’t feel empowered to talk about it or report it. Instead, they modify their routines to avoid being harassed.

“We want to bring the issue into the light and send a message that, actually, it’s not okay.”

“Just walking home from the bus stop is a really big thing for me. I’m scared for my life,” says Kripa, 21.

Data plotted into the Free to Be map will be fed back to city planners, public transport authorities, police and groups responsible for urban safety so they can make necessary changes to ensure a safer Sydney.

“I distinctly remember the first time I was harassed. It’s changed the way I behave in public,” says Milly, 16.

“When I get hollered at one the street it makes me feel uncomfortable, like I shouldn’t be there,” says Lauren, 16.

*The Sydney Free to Be Map will be open until May 28 this year. The data collected will be analysed by researchers from Monash University’s XYX Lab, which will provide insight into which areas of the city women feel safest. *

sydney.planfreetobe.org