A gay safe space will be opened on Oxford St at the end of this month.
The City of Sydney will provide a shopfront to the Anti-Violence Project (AVP) for a night-time safe space from 23 November at 60 Oxford St, initially operating between 11pm and 5am on Fridays and Saturdays.
The action is a direct result of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Police Minister David Campbell’s late-night walk up the strip last month.
The plan came about after ACON CEO Stevie Clayton approached Moore two months ago about the need for a safe space for people to report incidents of violence.
“At the moment it is just a joint venture between Sydney City Council and ACON,” Clayton said. “But we have been talking to the Police Minister’s office.”
AVP coordinator Carl Harris said AVP was now looking for around 36 volunteers to help man the safe space – a commitment of about three hours a month.
“The program has a lot of similarities with the drug rovers. We’ll be taking a lot of cues from the alcohol and drugs team,” Harris said.
Possible day uses of the space are being considered, with ACON hoping other community groups will get involved.
The site has been offered rent-free until after Mardi Gras next year, costing the city an estimated $20,000 in foregone revenue.
The police strategy forum has been set for 14 November, with community organisation leaders and police commanders from Kings Cross, Newtown, Marrickville, Central and Surry Hills invited.
“I am always looking for ways we can improve the police response to victims of crime, and in this case violence against the gay and lesbian community,” Campbell said.
He pointed to current strategies such as the gay and lesbian issues training at Surry Hills and high visibility policing operations targeting the area.
This comes as a venue manager said she was assaulted on Oxford St on Friday night in a random attack just four shops from her workplace.
“I’ve worked on this strip for 17 years and until then not once had I been made to feel like I need to look behind me,” Colombian employee Debbie Wakefield said.
“He grabbed me from behind, had his hands down my front and fondled me. He pushed me to the ground and had his knee in my back. My glasses went flying up the road.
“I felt so violated. It was horrifying. I just remember looking up from the ground and saw a table of people at a café and telling them it’s not a joke, get him off me. They did nothing.”
Police have been asked to follow up on the matter.
“I’ve had people tell me that when they come to Oxford St, they’ve got to stay in the venues. They don’t feel safe going from venue to venue any more,” Wakefield said.
“I’ve got a lot of male friends who won’t come near here. It used to be such a fun-loving happy place – as opposed to now.”

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