Fear and rudeness in Sydney dampens night time economy

Date: 24/02/2009

The glare of attention given to drinking curfews, lock outs and dangerous hotel lists is distracting the community from the hidden problem of people feeling excluded from the night time culture of Sydney says a criminologist at the University of Western Sydney.

Professor Stephen Tomsen, from the UWS Centre for Cultural Research, believes fears of violence in the city after dark and people experiencing anti-social behaviour are limiting the different types of people out enjoying themselves and contributing to the night time economy.

"Sydneysiders such as many women, gay men and middle-aged or older people are choosing not to participate fully in night time leisure activities because they believe they will encounter aggression or have a higher chance of being assaulted. These are not completely irrational fears that we should dismiss out of hand. However, there is no solid evidence for a new increased level of violence or real general danger in the city at night," says Professor Tomsen, who is also Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the UWS School of Social Sciences.

Professor Tomsen says the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reports show no observable changes in levels of assault or sexual assault between 2003 and 2007 recorded for inner city Sydney.

He says the perceived risk of violence is keeping away many people, and for others who do venture out a bad experience can send them home - unlikely to rejoin the night time economy.

"People who have been on the receiving end of extreme aggression, or incivility, during a night out often feel unwanted or disconnected from the groups enjoying the activities," says Professor Tomsen.

"Fear and unpleasant social encounters have many Sydney residents staying or heading home at night rather than out."

Professor Tomsen believes a key to safely and sustainably expanding the night time economy in Sydney is to build a sense of inclusion and diversity.

"There's no reason why the night time economy has to be limited to those who focus on drinking large amounts of alcohol. There needs to be a concerted effort to encourage diverse night time leisure activities and broaden the Sydney community that feels comfortable in their own city at night."

Professor Tomsen will participate in a public forum: "Summer Night Reflections: The City After Dark" at the Museum of Sydney on Wednesday 25 February 2009 at 6:30pm.

Other speakers include:
*Professor Deborah Stevenson, Head of the UWS School of Social Sciences and a member of the UWS Centre for Cultural Research (CCR)
*Mr Nathaniel Bavinton, Postgraduate Researcher and Project Officer for CCR
*Professor Rob Lynch, Emeritus Professor of Leisure, Sport and Tourism at the University of Technology, Sydney

Event details and bookings: ph 02 8239 2211 or tickets.hht.net.au



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