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Election Promises – SBT Position Paper

With the election fast approaching, document.write(" it is interesting to note the weight and importance each party lends to particular areas of the issue of street violence.

While Step Back Think believes it is important for each party to maintain an enthusiastic commitment solving the problem, we also feel there are significant gaps in each parties’ policies that need to be highlighted.

A survey of 6315 Melburnians conducted in October by 3AW and Chandler (an Australian research company) found that an overwhelming majority (88 per cent) do not feel safe at night, particularly in the CBD. Nor do people feel the Brumby Government has done enough to tackle the issue of crime.

An alarming percentage of people reported feeling unsafe on their local street at night (50 per cent); on public transport at night (88 per cent); with 55 per cent believing most violent attacks to be racially motivated.

Step Back Think views these figures as evidence of a growing awareness of the issue of street violence, due to a heavier media focus on the issue in recent years, rather than an accurate reflection of reality. Melburnians’ growing concern over the dangers of street violence illustrates progress is being made towards addressing the issue effectively, although there is a long way to go, and we do not yet feel that all possible means are being utilised in either parties’ response to the issue.

The survey revealed Melburnians place the greatest importance on three particular areas for the government to focus on when addressing the issue of street violence: tougher sentencing for perpetrators of crime and street violence; an increased police presence; and a zero-tolerance approach to gangs. While each of these reactions to the issue are important, there is a notable lack of focus on the importance of education and awareness initiatives in tackling the issue.

Step Back Think believes in order to achieve a cultural change in attitude towards street violence – and thus work towards permanently decreasing instances of assault/serious injury/death – education must be given the highest priority in any attempt to address the issue.

The root of the problem of street violence, in our view, is a culturally ingrained tolerance of violence and lack of education on its potentially life-changing consequences. Education programs in high schools and ongoing awareness campaigns that highlight the potentially debilitating or fatal consequences of a single punch, will achieve more over a longer period of time, than mechanical solutions like an increased police presence, granting police greater search powers and zero tolerance.

The success of generational awareness campaigns like the TAC’s drink-driving campaign, illustrate society’s ability to adopt a new, culturally-shared mentality regarding a particular safety issue. Simultaneously, it is an example of a result achieved over a two decades of education and awareness campaigns, highlighting the importance of investing in lasting change, rather than simply bolstering police presence, to address a statistic today and appease public anxiety.

Until a government commits to a long-term, educational investment aimed at modifying existing attitudes and thus moulding new behaviours, Step Back Think finds it difficult to see how either parties’ election promises will make a significant impact on the current status of the issue of street violence.