Violence in public places

It is likely that a multi-dimensional strategy spanning timeframes, social scales and government jurisdictions is needed to address violence in public places.


Increases in the frequency and severity of violence in public places – a problem across all jurisdictions in Australia – led Victoria grunge_000001735904XSmallPolice to commission Australia21 to explore, in some depth, issues of antisocial behaviour and risks to public safety. A roundtable was convened in October 2008 to address the question: What are the precursors and triggers of antisocial behaviour and the options for improved policy intervention to reduce such activity in public spaces?

Some participants focused on immediate, direct interventions to address public violence, others emphasized a broader, social-development perspective. Nevertheless, most, if not all, participants agreed on the need for a multi-dimensional strategy spanning timeframes, social scales and government jurisdictions. Key responses from the roundtable included:

  • Developing a clearer ‘typology’ of violence, which clearly identifies types of violence, the victims, the offenders, localities, and backgrounds.
  • Achieving a better mix of regulatory strategies that balance economic and social goals and objectives, combine informal and formal regulation, and can be adapted to suit different localities. This mix should include stronger and enforceable regulation of licensed premises.
  • Providing the necessary focus, support and resources to tackle violence, as has been done successfully with road safety.
  • Increased policing of randomly selected premises at random times, and more targeted policing of problem premises.
  • Training bar staff in managing all aggressive behaviours, not just drunkenness.
  • Holding organisers of public events more responsible and accountable for the social and health costs of these events.
  • Exploring the use of a ‘peer court’ to involve young people in the court process.
  • Broadening the focus of the education system beyond academic achievement and vocational qualifications to make the curriculum more relevant to young people’s lives and passions.
  • Introducing specific programs in schools to enhance the social and emotional wellbeing of students.
  • Investing in increased parent education on parenting from birth to adolescence.
  • Recognising the contribution of the media and communications technologies to violence, and acting to minimise these impacts.
  • Making more use of public-education campaigns to promote notions like ‘look after your mates’, ‘one punch can kill’, or ‘weapons are for wimps’.
  • Encouraging local communities to become more involved in crime prevention.


Download Public Violence Report 1 Richard Eckersley, R & Reeder, L 2008, Violence in public places: A report on an expert roundtable for Victoria Police, Australia21, Canberra.


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1 comment on "Violence in public places"

  • Lyn Stephens

    David Synnott sent in this comment:

    I think that ’parent education’ [see above] is not a new need. The fact of bad parenting has been recognized at least since the 1950s – when I became aware of it – and may well have been a problem for a long time. Perhaps it has increased – bad parenting seems to generate the next generation of bad parenting. It may also have grown alongside the increasing community attitude that ‘it’s a government problem’ rather than ‘it’s a community problem’. Which I think it is.

    Whereas ‘better education’ is seen to be a solution I don’t think it is practicable. This is since it is increasing the load on schools, probably without increasing school hours, and certainly demanding more knowledge and skills
    from teachers. It is also increasing the requirement that teachers effectively replace parents in providing a range of social modelling. I suggest that another avenue for imparting the necessary information, attitudes and behaviours
    should be sought.

    I suggest we should work out how to go back to the early 50s attitudes when communities worked to address what were essentially community needs. Is this a pipe dream? Do the development of larger cities; the development of
    special interest groups – be they religious, cultural, racial, sporting and soon – which can spread across communities and weaken the value of communities; the reported declining willingness to volunteer; the possible importance of
    economic security; and perhaps other causes; mean that area-based communities – and membership of such communities – is no longer valued?

    Public violence isn’t the only wide-spread problem which possibly could be lessened by community attitudes and strength. Inadequate health literacy is another. Both generate a large cost for the country’s population as a whole.

    There is another influence which appears to be strengthening – and we are seeing it almost daily, and one of its biggest promoters is our PM. I refer to ‘big business morality’. Its prime aims are: results, efficiency, and self-interest. You might notice ‘efficiency’ not ‘effectiveness’. You will also know some prime examples of it. Tobacco company executives hiding information about the carcinogenetic effects of tobacco, and the club executives campaigning against actions aimed at easing the problem of people addicted to gambling.

    Can Australia21 turn its resources to this possible solution – and actively campaign for a lessening of this community damaging big business morality.


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