How a map is leading Victoria one step closer to equality

AN interactive web-based map allows women and gender diverse people to record experiences of discomfort in public spaces. 

The YourGround map, designed by CrowdSpot and in collaboration with Monash University’s XYX Lab, geographically pinpoints location-based incidents. 

Isabel, a 20-year-old female from Camberwell reflects on an experience that made her feel unsafe in a public setting. 

“I remember one time I went to see a movie by myself… and completely under-estimated how late it would finish…” she said. 

“I had to walk over this open bridge that goes over a railway line and this man was coming from the opposite direction, his eyes were following me.

“I felt my heart was in my throat.” 

The team at XYX lab, research ‘intersection[s] of gender, identity, urban space and advocacy’ and will analyse and report on the data collected by CrowdSpot.

YourGround’s introduction video.

The map works by digitally pinpointing a location that caused an emotional experience for women and gender-diverse people.  

This experience, whether positive or negative, becomes a valuable piece in the data set, used to map safer and more equitable spaces in Victoria.

Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture at Monash University, Dr. Nicole Kalms, is the founding director of XYX lab, leading the YourGound project. 

Feeling unsafe in a public setting can result in self-directed restrictions on movement. 

“Generally, women and gender diverse people who feel unsafe in particular spaces exclude themselves,” said Dr. Kalms.

“Essentially, while we think that public spaces are public, they are not equally accessed.”

YourGround’s data shows 50 per cent of Australian women already feel unsafe walking alone at night.

Nicola, an 18-year-old female from Surrey Hills is a part of this cohort.  

“I feel unsafe when I am alone at night, walking in the streets,” she said. 

Louisa, a 20-year-old female from Balwyn feels vulnerable when alone on public transport.  

“I would feel unsafe taking public transport at night, even though there are cameras and lighting, I would not travel by myself,” she said.  

Vicki, a 49-year-old Surrey Hills woman, also relates. 

“I would not walk through a park by myself at night, there are too many large, dark spaces,” she said. 

The Australian Human Rights Commission states that “Governments have a duty to ensure that a person’s freedom of movement is not unduly restricted by others…”

Dr. Kalms, however, said this right to movement is often denied, based on gender. 

“The way we talk about gender in the built environment is that there are stereotypes and systems that frame the way we are in public spaces,” she said. 

“From the way we think about public transport, lighting, wayfinding, even the time of day that people want to use space.”

Dr. Kalms uses the term ‘spatial justice,’ a scholarly concept in the field of architecture, to resolve inequality in public space. 

According to Dr. Kalms, spatial justice looks at the relationship between design, systems of power, and the specific needs women, girls, and gender-diverse people need in public spaces. 

“It is an approach that allows marginalised and minoritized communities to be included in design work,” she said.

The impetus for researching gender-based exclusion in public space came after Victoria implemented the Gender Equality Act in February 2020. 

YourGround map has received 5500 submissions since the initiative started in April 2021.

New experiences and locations can be recorded on YourGround until July 31.  

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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