Oxford St safe place opens
The long-awaited safe space at 60 Oxford St will open for the first time this Friday night.
The space, which was provided rent-free by City of Sydney, will allow victims of harassment or violence to access immediate support.
The safe space is a six-month pilot program by ACON’s Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project (AVP). It will be open between 11pm and 5am on Fridays and Saturdays and will be manned by one trained staff member and two volunteers.
The GenerationQ Street Angels will transport victims to the safe space when its patrols start later this month.
In the case of an emergency, staff will dial triple 0, while less pressing cases of homophobic assaults will be reported to Surry Hills Police. Support and referral services will be provided while the victim is waiting for the emergency response.
Labor candidate for Wentworth George Newhouse visited the safe space with ACON CEO Stevie Clayton and AVP coordinator Carl Harris this week. Newhouse said people could expect an initial increase in the reported cases of violence while data was being collected, before the figure levels off.
The data collected at the safe space will be collated with that logged by police, Clayton said.
The opening of the safe space follows last week’s meeting between Police Minister David Campbell, politicians and community groups, at which the escalating problem of homophobic violence was addressed.
At the meeting a commitment was made to renew efforts and provide more resources to address homophobic violence.
Clayton said extra police officers had been allocated to the Surry Hills Command, but additional funding was still required.
“The new police are going to be inexperienced, but having more bodies on the street is very important, and it’s a start,” she said.
“The federal government invests a lot of money into big crime prevention and national programs, but none of it is going to homophobic violence.”
A push by Sydney Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard for the city to pay for additional police on Oxford St at weekends was rejected by the council this week, on the basis that it was a State Government issue.
All levels of government should be involved in combating the issue, Newhouse said.
“I would certainly be pushing for some of that money to be coming into areas like this,” he said.
“There is a lot of alcohol-fuelled violence, and that obviously contributes to bringing out people’s prejudice.”
Newhouse committed himself to volunteering at the Safe Space.
The safe space will be officially opened at 7pm this Friday.