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Safety is not always simple

By Carolyn Rance

There are more ways to protect the public than just preventing crime, writes Carolyn Rance.

Community safety is about more than crime prevention - it needs to be considered by everyone working in local government, says a senior policy and planning officer at Wyndham City Council, Lucy Midolo.

Midolo chairs the Victorian Safe Communities Network, established 16 years ago to help public safety professions and create opportunities for collaborative advocacy and policy development.

Network members work with government, business and local communities to develop strategies that minimise the impact of injury, violence and emergency situations.

Evidence-based research is vital to success, Midolo says. She spends much of her working life researching and analysing social questions and encouraging other professionals to consider the safety implications of the policies and projects they are developing.

Her interest in research began when she studied social science at La Trobe University, and remained during social work training and study at the University of Melbourne and an early career that included Italian welfare organisation Co.As.It and the Western Hospital.

A job with Werribee Community Health took her into the area of health promotion and increased her contact with local government.

In 2006 Midolo began work at Wyndham council as a community safety team leader.

She says an important part of her work is fostering safety awareness in the whole organisation.

"When I first came here, the role was largely about managing graffiti, which was a hot issue," she says.

"I soon came to realise that community safety is about so much more than crime prevention, it's about everything, precinct planning, the way parks and walking trails are designed and equipped, how residential subdivisions are designed - really about how councils can build safer communities.

"Community safety should not just sit with people in designated safety positions. It is something everyone should take into account to optimise health and wellbeing outcomes for the whole community."

Professionals should beware of jumping to simplistic conclusions about safety, she says. "In the area of precinct planning, for example, it's important to look at what has and hasn't worked in the past and what can be done to make things work better," she says.

"If you really want to achieve good outcomes you need evidence and research and understanding of what is best practice."

Midolo worked on the council's responsible gambling strategy and on responses to family violence, which include support for White Ribbon Day and for a western region action plan to prevent violence against women.

Much of her work focuses on the mix of housing and services needed in a part of Melbourne that is growing both in terms of population and ethnic diversity.


Published: 01 December 2012

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