Australian Institute of Criminology

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1993 award winners

Certificates of merit

Sounds of the Street

Sounds of the Street is a music education course run by the Sydney City Mission in New South Wales. The course provides unemployed, homeless young people with opportunities to explore their feelings and experiences through creative outlets and to have new educational experiences through an involvement in music. Participants are encouraged to learn non-violent methods of conflict resolution.

Many of the young people undertaking the course have a history of abuse, a lack of self-confidence, problems with self-discipline and poor communication skills. Strong feelings of isolation, alienation and powerlessness and low levels of education compound the problem making the traditional education system seem beyond their reach. However, many of the young people often have an extraordinarily strong feeling about music and have aspirations to express themselves creatively. Sounds of the Street uses music to provide young people with new experiences, thereby increasing their self-esteem and self-confidence and encouraging goal setting and positive lifestyle changes. For example, participants are encouraged to learn non violent methods for resolving conflict and disputes.

Homeless young people, or "street kids", are among the most difficult groups to reach, especially when they have been out of home and exposed to street life for long periods of time. They live on the fringes of society and often display intense alienation and isolation from society. Many have been exposed to abuse, either at home or on the streets, and most have little education beyond early secondary schooling. Almost all use drugs, and self-mutilation, vandalism and violence are part of the sub-culture.

The Sounds of the Street project took the view that a great deal of the violence involving street kids can be attributed to their ongoing struggle to survive and their inability to cope with or express strong feelings and emotions. Most available courses are unable to attract or retain the interest of "hardened" street kids. One of the common interests that attracted all young people, however, including street kids, is music, which is one of the few ways in which they let out their feelings.

The outcome was the formation of a group of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, which met for three 8-hour workshops each week, under the guidance of a social worker and a professional musician, to develop their musical skills. They had little or no musical experience, and were able to experiment with a wide range of musical equipment. They visited a recording studio, and were addressed by high profile musicians such as Angry Anderson, John Brewster from the Angels and Anna Lancaster from Status Quo. Participants received individual tutoring, with the ultimate goal of producing a professional quality cassette containing each participant's contribution.

Of the ten participants, eight successfully completed the course. In addition to their musical development, other positive outcomes included improvements in ability and willingness to communicate; improved self-esteem, cooperation, and insight; increased literacy and numeracy skills; development of future plans and goals; less reliance on drugs; and the procurement of more stable accommodation.

Several participants of the course have gone on to enrol in further courses and all have continued to maintain a more positive direction in their lives. The Sounds of the Streets course demonstrates that by encouraging creativity, self-expression and communication skills it is possible to improve self-esteem and life skills, and to reduce levels of anti-social behaviour and violence even for the most damaged and disadvantaged young people.

The project was developed by the Sydney City Mission and was first conducted over 3 months in 1993. It was funded with the assistance of a grant from the New South Wales Board of Adult and Community Education and was supported by others in the community who provided equipment and volunteer tutoring. Total expenditure was $16 000, most of which was staff costs.

Alcohol Action Advisory Committee Projects

The Alcohol Action Advisory Committee Projects (WA) developed from moves by the Halls Creek Alcohol Action Advisory Committee to address alcohol related harm. The success of the project inspired other communities to apply for funding for "sobering-up" centres, to impose voluntary liquor restrictions and to examine other options for the prevention of violence. The Committee has been instrumental in instigating a series of "firsts" in Western Australia, such as the restriction of alcohol availability and the development of an Aboriginal family outreach worker.

In Halls Creek more than 80 per cent of all domestic incidents was estimated to be alcohol related. The Halls Creek police reported that between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of serious assault charges was alcohol related domestic violence. As two-thirds of the population of Halls Creek is Aboriginal, the effects have been particularly important for the Aboriginal community.

The Halls Creek Alcohol Action Advisory Committee is a group with representation from all sectors of the community. It first met in 1990 as the Government Resource Committee to discuss the establishment of a local "sobering-up" centre. The Committee recognised, however, that while the "sobering-up" centre would be the first step in reducing alcohol related harm, it was necessary to take further steps if the large incidence of domestic violence and other alcohol related harm were to be addressed adequately.

After a series of open community meetings it was decided to approach the Director for Liquor Licensing in Western Australia and ask him to restrict the availability of alcohol. The submission was supported with a petition signed by 390 persons. As a result, the Director visited Halls Creek, held a public meeting (the first time a formal hearing was held outside the metropolitan area) and eventually placed restrictions on the hours of sale, the amount and type of alcohol sold, and the place of sale.

The Committee next made a submission to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) requesting funds to set up a family outreach program, one of the aims of which was to assist the families of drinkers, particularly those most likely to become victims of alcohol-related violence. The submission was successful in attracting ATSIC funding for a five-year project.

The sobering-up centre, the Salem Shelter, has been able to divert 82 per cent of all police detentions for public drunkenness. "Before and after" comparisons of the incidence of domestic violence and injuries related to alcohol use show a decrease in both. Moreover, since the restrictions there has been a dramatic drop in the number of emergency evacuations by the Royal Flying Doctor Service from the area.

The success of the Committee in addressing alcohol-related violence through a series of inter-related projects has inspired other towns in the State to apply for funding for "sobering-up" centres, to impose similar liquor restrictions through cooperative community action, and to consider other courses of action for the prevention of violence in their communities. The Halls Creek project has not only benefited victims of alcohol related violence, but also had an impact on their families and local communities. For example, with the reduction in the incidents of alcohol related injury, hospital staff have been able to attend to other health care priorities. Police and local legal services have also reported a reduction in the amount of time they spend in responding to alcohol related disturbance and crime.

Creating Safe Public Places

The Creating Safe Public Places project (Vic.) was a research project or "safety audit" into aspects of building and streetscape design which create unsafe situations or places, to assist Local Government in the creation of a "Safe Precinct" within the central business district. The project consultants identified a range of unsafe street layouts and building designs in the business districts of Frankston, Bendigo and Box Hill, and recommended some simple and practical solutions.

The study found considerable repetition in each of the three centres of different types of "unsafe" situations. It defined "unsafe situation" as the sense of unease or danger felt by an individual when present in a public place by virtue of the physical design of that place. This sense of danger is caused because a public place provides the environment where assault may occur, where blind corners exist, where a safe exit or alternative route may not exist or be evident, or where assistance may not be readily available. The study identified examples of unsafe situations resulting from the design of buildings or civic works, usually streetscape improvements. Locations and facilities within each business district which are used by people outside normal business hours were also identified.

The sense of personal safety is compromised when the immediate physical environment contains places which are hidden, dark or not clearly visible. In terms of building design they are generally the result of a design decision relating to entrances, exits or wall treatments at street level. Set-backs of walls from street boundaries often create blind spots or recesses, and if landscaped frequently contain dense screen planting which facilitates concealment. Covered car parks are intimidating, particularly when abutting a pedestrian route. The rear of premises, especially large complexes, generally has a loading dock area which presents a harsh facade to the street, often with recesses or dark corners.

There are also several features of the typical civic streetscape which create unsafe situations. These include densely vegetated planter boxes, shrubs and trees near public toilets, the existence of a covered or decked parking area adjacent to a pedestrian route, movement routes whose exit is not visible, and poor lighting of essential movement routes. Unsafe aspects of civic design also include railings which constrain alternative movements and an underpass or lane whose corners conceal the exit.

The study identified several matters which it suggested be considered by building designers, and their compliance checked by building inspectors, prior to issue of a building permit:

  • Walls abutting public spaces should not incorporate recesses or set-backs which create blind spots.
  • Side walls of such recesses, if they occur, should be splayed outwards to reduce or remove such blind spots.
  • Colonnades should not have columns greater than 200 x 200 mm in plan area.
  • Railings or other devices should be sued to create a barrier along the face of any recess.
  • Columns which create blind spots should not be expressed on building facades at ground level.
  • Entrances and exits should be prominent, not set back, and with uninterrupted access.
  • Automatic teller machines should not be set back or in semi-enclosed locations.
  • Vegetation such as shrubs should be avoided where these could provide blind spots or concealment opportunities.
  • Loading docks, delivery bays and the like should be away from potential pedestrian movement routes.
  • Outward-swinging exit doors should be protected by means other than recesses which form blind spots, or be located in recesses with splayed sides to remove the blind spot.

The study also described the process to be followed to create a safe precinct by the identification and removal of elements which create an unsafe environment, that is:

Step l: identify "attractors" or features which attract people, particularly outside normal business hours;

Step 2: identify waiting locations, such as bus stops, tram stops, train stations and taxi ranks;

Step 3: identify movement routes from entertainment and activity venues to food outlets, public transport stops and car parks;

Step 4: define "safe precinct" by marking up on a map the attractors, waiting locations and movement routes identified, and the definition of a compact area which includes all or most of these and which will be the subject of detailed inspection and later action;

Step 5: identify unsafe situations with the Safe Precinct, in terms of such matters as building design, civic works or lack of lighting;

Step 6: identify ameliorative measures.

The project demonstrated the viability and importance of the conduct of safety audits and the development and implementation of regulations or guidelines to prevent the creation of further unsafe situations. The results suggest that a similar procedure in other locations may not be difficult; and importantly, that implementing regulations or guidelines to prevent the creation of further unsafe situations can be readily achieved. Box Hill Council has passed the recommendations of the report in principle. The City of Frankston has adopted the recommendations as planning guidelines.

Weekender Project

The Weekender Project (Vic.) is associated with the Collingwood Children's Farm, Inc., which provides a rural environment within the city of Melbourne for young people. It introduces vulnerable young people, including those from migrant groups in the area, to the Farm at weekends, and encourages constructive involvement and improved behaviour from those who attend. The project is additional to the ordinary operations of the Farm.

Because the Collingwood Children's Farm is a community resource well used by local schools and agencies, most local young people have had some contact prior to their teenage years. As well, it is one of the few community resources young people have access to on weekends. Hence there is a tendency for some local young people to gather at the Farm over the weekend.

The Weekender Project began in Victoria in February 1992 and has operated every Saturday and Sunday between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. It has a dual purpose*firstly to encourage positive and constructive involvement of young people who visit the Farm on a regular basis but behave in a negative manner toward animals, property and other Farm users; and secondly, to encourage and increase the participation of young people from various migrant communities in the local area.

The Weekender program aims to contact vulnerable young people, introduce them to the Farm and available activities and develop new activities and projects suited to interests and needs. A youth worker is employed at weekends to work with young people who experience difficulty in fitting into the activities program, either through challenging and aggressive behaviour or through lack of confidence. The young people are made to feel welcome, they are given clear guidelines as to expectations of behaviour, are supported in meeting these expectations and they are assisted to link up with other young people and join in activities and to enjoy themselves.

The core of about 15 young people involved in the project have been designated "at risk" for some time prior to their involvement in the Farm. Although many have had passing involvement in other agencies, it is the Farm they have come to by choice on an ongoing basis. Ages vary from 12 to 15 years. The group includes young people from broken or dysfunctional families. Some are homeless, many have been involved in gangs, petty crime and drug experimentation.

The Collingwood Police Community Consultative Committee believes that the Weekender Program has been instrumental in deflecting a number of young people from lifestyles of petty crime and drug taking.

Barnardo's Temporary Family Care Program

The Barnardo's Temporary Family Care Program (ACT) is a crisis and respite foster care service for children aged 0 to 12 years who are at risk of abuse, violence and neglect. It was established in 1990 as a response to the Callaghan Report which recommended the provision of alternatives for children at risk of abuse and violence. The temporary family care model has been in operation for 15 years in New South Wales and has been successfully introduced in many areas of Sydney and New South Wales country areas.

The program services families experiencing problems of poverty, domestic violence, unemployment and homelessness. Many are single parent families. Like the day care services available to disadvantaged families, the program also gives over stressed parents who do not have the financial means to pay for regular child care the opportunity to take a break. It recruits local carers who work towards rapid resolution of the family crisis and the return of the child to the primary care giver. The service is supported twenty-four hours a week by workers who utilise a crisis intervention approach to problems which have resulted in the need for care. Many children are "at risk" of initial and ongoing abuse and the possibility of having to move into long-term care. The special feature of the program is the accompanying family support done with families while children are in care and the emphasis is on family restoration.

Children are only accepted into care when other community supports are insufficient, and are returned to their families as quickly as possible to help prevent the drift into extended long-term care or institutionalisation.

Over 100 children benefit from the Temporary Family Care Program each year. Ninety-five per cent of them are returned home.