Melbourne is consistently ranked as the world’s most liveable city. But, like most large cities, there are some risks, especially at night. Here are some tips for staying safe.
On The Street
- avoid parks, lanes and poorly lit areas at night
- travel with a friend whenever possible
- check your directions before you travel
- take care when crossing roads: look to the right and the left before you step off the kerb, and use pedestrian crossings or traffic lights whenever you can
- don’t get in a car with people you don’t know
- don’t get in a car with someone who’s been drinking
- when you’re walking or cycling at night, wear brightly coloured clothing so that drivers can see you
- feel free to approach police officers on the street or walk into a police station at any time.
On Public Transport
When you’re travelling on a train, tram or bus, sit in the first carriage or up the front to be near the driver, and press the emergency button only if necessary
never cross railway crossings when lights are flashing or barriers are down.
In A Public Place
- stay alert when using ATMs, and cover your hand when entering your PIN
- don’t give out your phone number or personal details freely
- always buy your own drinks, especially in a bar or pub
- never carry more than $100 with you
- in an emergency, dial 000 as a free call from any telephone, 24 hours a day, for fire, police or ambulance.
Emergency services are provided to help all Melbourne residents. The staff who work for these services are trained professionals. If you ever find yourself in an emergency, you can call ‘000’ for:
This is a free call and can be dialled from all mobile phones, even those without credit. If you place a call to any of these services, the telephone operator will provide assistance until help arrives. To speak to someone in your own language, ask the operator for a translator.
Most of the women in the city at night did not respond to the harasser – less than 2% of comments noted response. They did, however, institute a series of tactics to attempt to prevent or mitigate a similar occurrence in the future. Women taking responsibility for their own safety is a common solution, given what seems to be the intractability of sexual harassment in wider society. Tactics included:
- Never returning to the location. This, of course, has profound consequences for the viability of businesses in the locale.
- Being hyper-aware and/or cautious of surroundings was implicit in all the comments and explicit in at least one-quarter of them.
- Avoid being in a location when they are on their own. 45% of all Sydney city pins tagged this response, which jumped to 49% for those commuting at night but held relatively stable for those out for recreation (44%).
- Women walked different routes, got out at different stops and/or essentially adjusted their mode and way of transportation to avoid specific locations:
Several respondents declared that they no longer go out into the city at night because of the anticipated levels of harassment. As noted earlier, the impacts that harassment can have on young women’s use of public space is profound, and this outcome is consistent with previous research.31 A small number of women quit their job or moved because of harassment.
Making Melbourne’s streets safer for women
The City of Melbourne has launched an open call to crowd-source innovative solutions to make the city safer following a spate of recent attacks on women. The city opened a competition calling on the community to bring forward home-grown, tech-driven solutions that focus on promoting safe movement around the city for the 920,000 visitors and residents that come to Melbourne each day.
The news comes just weeks after the death of 21-year-old Aiia Maasarwe, who was fatally attacked in a public space in Melbourne as she made on her way home.
With a string of female deaths across Australia in recent months and 57 per cent of stranger homicides occurring in a street or open area, the council hopes the project will help tackle the violence.
The Open Innovation Challenge, which is running for the second year in a row, aims to unearth solutions from innovators, entrepreneurs and the community to issues affecting the community.
The key theme of safe mobility, unveiled last week, is set to focus on four key areas: public spaces, transport, safety at night and safety around city disruption. Chair of the City of Melbourne’s Knowledge City portfolio, Councillor Dr Jackie Watts, said the project aims to tackle anti-social behaviour in public spaces.
Australia’s first all-female rideshare service, Shebah, is just one of several projects that are being used as examples to inspire budding entrepreneurs to come forward with solutions to stemming violence against women in public spaces and representatives of the start-up spoke at a panel event last week.
The service available across most Australian cities, including Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo Ballarat, Hobart, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Adelaide, and Perth, was launched on International Women’s Day in 2017. runsIt is designed to support the safety and independence of both passengers and drivers.
The current challenge follows a the successful Open Innovation on Accessibility campaign launched by the Council last year, where the first prize of $20,000 was awarded to an app that paired the City of Melbourne’s Open Data with smart assistants to provide up-to-date information via voice, text and screen readers.
According to a how-to guide for local government prepared by the City of Melbourne, open innovation can provide solutions for local government to improve existing or stimulate new public services, programs and policies.
Women, including young women, were allowed to identify and share public spaces that make them feel unsafe, uneasy, happy, and safe. It empowered them to call out dangerous experiences and identify areas where change needs to occur. To improve safety at night-time in Sydney, the research suggests that there must be better consideration of the varying experiences of different groups of night city users when planning and designing venues, policy and projects.
This research also reveals that it is likely that the experiences of women in the city at night are not well factored into decisions that affect the urban environment – this must be changed at all levels of government as well as in decisions made by individual businesses. Street harassment is interconnected with other forms of gender-based violence and abuse.
It is essential to recognise that the efforts suggested here must complement and work alongside efforts to tackle gender-based violence more broadly, including those aiming to change community attitudes towards violence and respectful and ethical relationships education. In particular, gender-sensitive design practices and strategies have been
shown to be successful in making spaces safer for all.
While there are some practical interventions that can be made in relation to how we design and manage public space or how we create safe venues and improve response and reporting, these are dealing with the symptoms of a more significant underlying issue – men’s attitudes towards women and other disadvantaged groups. We must redouble our efforts to change a culture that allows men to think that harassment and assault are acceptable. Without addressing gender norms and power relations to create a societal and cultural shift, even implementing every one of the interventions below will not solve this problem.
Consistent across many of the issues this paper has identified is an ongoing lack of women’s perspectives in how we plan and manage public space. It is a simple fact that women, especially young women, are generally not included in conversations about the shape of our city.
We must strengthen girls’, young women’s and women’s agency over decisions that affect them, specifically their ability to fully participate in public life. To address this, Local and State Government should apply a ‘gender lens’ to all considerations of changes to the city – developing policy in consultation with young women and experts in gender-based safety/city planning.
This includes any future night-time entertainment-related policy such as future reviews of the lockout laws or the recently considered City of Sydney draft planning controls for late-night trading. Businesses can also benefit from applying this approach to consulting with their staff. For instance, engaging with female staff on operational changes that would affect work hours, location, office layout and access.
NSW Department of Premier & Cabinet and Women NSW • Fund public education campaigns targeting cultural change, especially with regards to:
- Bystander tactics.
- What sexual harassment is and its harmful, lingering impacts on women.
Develop a more sophisticated mechanism to encourage reporting of both ‘minor’ and ‘serious’ incidents. This may appear as a mobile-friendly version of the Free to Be app. Given current low levels of reporting, this should be accompanied by campaigns encouraging women and others impacted by harassment to report and the implementation of training to officers who would respond to these reports.
Use data collected from women (through new online reporting mechanisms or advisory groups) to identify problem areas. When designing public spaces, specifically, aim to address these issues.
Audit the appropriateness of lighting and other design features that contribute to safety across local government areas, prioritising places considered ‘hot spots. Engage with girls and women to unpack how items such as street furniture can improve safety and report through technology like phone charging or emergency call buttonspreciselyhese requirements in the procurement process.
NSW Department of Planning and Environment
Develop design guidelines for public space that improve safety. This should draw on research on both gender-sensitive design and programs such as Queensland Government’s
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design guidelines.
Transport for NSW
Audit the appropriateness of lighting and other design features that contribute to safety around public transport nodes. This should include not just the stations or stop themselves, but the areas around them. With identified problem areas, fund a ‘Black Spot’-style program to address the most problematic areas immediately.
Where possible, increase the availability of public and other transport in the city at night to reduce long wait times and increase the number of physical staff on night-time services, stations, platforms and waiting area.
Considering the significant construction underway in the city and its impact on the public realm, assess the impact of hoardings, street closures and other construction impacts on women’s safety through reduced lighting, surveillance and visibility. Invest in design features that increase lighting and/or sightlines to reduce this impact.
Based on the understanding that safe, happy staff are central to the success of an organisation, survey your team, especially the junior female team, on their experiences
commuting to and from work. Use this information to develop ‘safe travel to work’
programs with staff.
Where concerning hot-spots of areas of repeated negative experiences exist, use this information to advocate to the government to fund well designed, well-staffed transport options for staff to feel and be safe travelling to and from work.
Male Champions of Change should champion this program internally to Human Resources departments as an essential step in improving staff wellbeing.
Night-time business and industry
Train venue staff to recognise sexual harassment when it occurs, to act as positive bystanders, and to respond appropriately to any reports made. This could include the roll out of programs such as ‘Ask for Angela’ in more suburbs across Sydney.
Tips For Women Travelling To Melbourne
Unfortunately, Melbourne still doesn’t have a train connecting the airport to the CBD, but there’s a bus service that will get you there, as well as taxis that are always available. However, once you’ve settled in, getting around the city on public transport (trains, trams and buses) is pretty straightforward. Just as in other big cities like London or Tokyo, you can purchase a transport card (a Myki) to load funds onto, and you tap on/off as you travel, with money being deducted as you go. You can also access free travel within Melbourne’s Free Tram Zone within the CBD, which is a great way to save money!
Where to stay
While Melbourne is generally considered a reasonably safe city (where women are on an equal footing to men than many other parts of the world), it’s not exempt from crime. Suppose you’re a first-time visitor, and especially if you’re travelling alone, staying in a hotel in the CDB would be the best option. In that case, there’s a more significant police presence, the area’s well-lit has busy streets, and there are always lots of people around. If you’re a repeat visitor, it’s great to have you back!
For those of you looking for a different scene, look at staying a little further out of the city in areas like Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy or Richmond. It’s also important to note that Melbourne is a safe and welcoming city to people of all faiths and races. So whichever area you choose to stay in, you’re sure to find something that will suit your tastes.
Be smart around animals
Animals in this country are some of the deadliest in the world. You generally won’t come across anything too dangerous in the CBD, but if you take a day trip or head out to more rural areas, here are a few things to be aware of with regards to spiders and snakes:
- Don’t ever reach under rocks, into brush areas, into holes in trees or pick up fallen tree branches – that’s where some of our snakes and spiders like to hide.
- Another favourite hiding spot for snakes is around bodies of water surrounded by long grass and shrubs. Always be wary, especially in hot weather.
- If you do come across a snake (one of the more common, venomous breeds is the Eastern Brown which is found in drier areas), they’re generally only going to attack if they feel threatened, so give them a wide berth and make sure your exit path doesn’t block them into a corner.
- While they certainly aren’t all deadly, a general rule of thumb is that if you see a snake or spider, just assume they are venomous and act accordingly.
Warnings & Dangers in Melbourne
Overall Risk: Low
When the criminal against tourists is considered, Melbourne is believed to be a very safe city. The overall rating is 80% which makes it a place where tourists can feel safe walking around.
Transport & Taxis Risk Medium
In general, all the means of transport are safe in Melbourne, but the stations in the city outskirts can be scary because they are empty. Tourists should stay in those areas that are covered with security cameras.
Pickpockets Risk Medium
The Flinders Street station is considered to be the dangerous part of the city in terms of pickpockets. When the pickpocketing is the most frequent, the amount of the year is Christmas, the Melbourne Cup or the Footy Grand Finale.
Natural Disasters Risk Medium
When summer is in question, the sun can be dangerous for the skin since the UV index is very high. Floods are possible during the rainy season, but they are not so frequent. Other natural risks can happen in Melbourne but are not upsetting.
Mugging Risk Low
Mugging risks are not very common in Melbourne because it is a very safe city. But, still, there are some areas where it is possible to be mugged, especially during the night.
Terrorism Risk Low
Terrorist threats are not common in Melbourne, and it is a city that is believed to be very safe in terms of terrorism.
Scams Risk Low
Some frequent scams in Melbourne are bartenders overcharging you and keeping the difference, taxi drivers who overcharge, and people who offer you some help with your baggage and then carry it away from you and run away with it.
Women Travelers Risk Low
Women travellers are considered safe in Melbourne and Australia in general. However, walking alone through Melbourne at night can be frightening for a woman, and it should be avoided.
So... How Safe Is Melbourne Really?
Melbourne, as well as the whole of Australia, is generally a safe place to spend your holiday. The 80% rating proves that safety is at a high level and that tourists can enjoy their stay in this reasonably safe city.
However, Melbourne, like any other big and populous city, can be violent and have criminals.
Certain parts of the city should be avoided, although tourists are not a common target of the criminals in these areas. Bourke Street, Flinders Street Station, and Gray Street have a population that belongs to all social classes, from homeless people to drug dealers and prostitutes, which leads to all sorts of criminal acts.
To protect themselves, tourists need to pay attention to strangely behaving people around them, to keep their possessions in front of them and remain cautious all the time while they are on the crowded streets of Melbourne.
They should remain on the main streets during the night, where there are lights and cameras, and avoid those city districts that are well known as dangerous.
Nevertheless, Australia is in the 10th place of the safest countries in the world, so tourists do not need to be afraid when coming to this country since Melbourne is safer than most prominent cities in the world.
The Safe Cities Index 2019 ranked Melbourne among the top 10 safest cities in the world. Results were based on a criteria that included crime rates, road safety, digital security, and quality of healthcare. In 2020, Melbourne continued to rank high in safety when compared to other major cities.