Everybody enjoys physical safety and feels secure. People are free from
victimisation, abuse, violence and avoidable injury.
Safety is fundamental to wellbeing: violence and avoidable
injuries, at their most extreme, threaten life itself. In other cases,
they reduce the quality of life for the victim and other people in
Both safety and security are important. Safety is freedom from
physical or emotional harm, while security is freedom from the threat
or fear of harm or danger. The desired outcomes recognise threats come
in many forms, ranging from deliberate violence to accidental injury.
Violence and injury corrode quality of life in many ways.
Physical injury causes pain and incapacity, reducing victims’ enjoyment
of life and their ability to do things that are important to them.
Property crime, such as burglary, also affects people’s
wellbeing. In addition to the direct losses associated with crime of
this sort, evidence suggests the threat of burglary is a more
significant worry for many people than the threat of violence.83
Psychological effects are often as important as the physical
ones. Victims of violence or injury often retain emotional scars long
after their physical wounds have healed. They may suffer from
depression or face other mental health issues.
Crime affects not only individuals but also society as a
whole. The victim’s family and friends are likely to suffer grief and
anger. They may have to care for someone who is temporarily or
permanently incapacitated and who may lose their livelihood. Crime and
the fear of crime may also reduce social cohesion within communities.
Crime may restrict people’s choices about how to live their
lives. For example, they may stay away from certain areas or avoid
going out because of a fear of crime.
The costs to society as a whole range from the expense of
hospital care and law enforcement to the loss of the victim’s input
into their work and community. Children who grow up surrounded by
violence may themselves become violent adults, perpetuating a negative
Four indicators are used in this chapter: assault mortality,
criminal victimisation, fear of crime and road casualties. The first
three indicators provide a picture of the level and impact of violence
in the community.
Assault mortality provides a picture of intentional violence
across society. Reducing interpersonal violence in families and
communities is critical to social and personal wellbeing. This
indicator measures deaths resulting from violence, the tip of the
violence pyramid. Young children and youth are particularly vulnerable.
Measuring criminal victimisation from police records is
difficult, as many crimes are not reported to the police. This is
particularly true of domestic violence, sexual violence and child
abuse. The second indicator uses survey results to give a more
comprehensive picture of the level of criminal victimisation in
society, including the level of violence.
The third indicator is fear of crime. Feeling unsafe harms
people’s quality of life by producing anxiety and reducing their
options in life. However, there is some evidence fear is not
necessarily linked to the actual risk of becoming a crime victim. For
example, people may feel unsafe and have their quality of life reduced
even when the actual likelihood of their being victimised is relatively
People should also be able to live in a society free from the
risk of avoidable death or injury. The leading cause of avoidable
injury and death is motor vehicle crashes. In economic terms, the
social cost of motor vehicle crashes has been estimated at $3.1b
The final indicator is road casualties.
Workplace accidents are another form of avoidable injury. They
are discussed in the chapter on Paid Work.