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Regional Comparison

The Big Cities Project




Desired Outcomes

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 various ways.

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.81

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 cycle.


Four indicators are used in this chapter: intentional injury child mortality, criminal victimisation, perceptions of safety, and road casualties. The first three indicators provide a picture of the level and impact of violence in the community.

Child maltreatment, or child abuse and neglect, causes physical and psychological harm that is often long-lasting.82 Child maltreatment varies in its nature and severity. The most severe form of child maltreatment is violence against children that leads to a fatality. The indicator of child maltreatment used in this chapter is the intentional injury child mortality rate.

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 perceptions of safety. Feeling unsafe harms people's quality of life by producing anxiety and reducing their options in life. However, there is some evidence that 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 small.

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 annually.83 The final indicator is road casualties.

Workplace accidents are another form of avoidable injury. They are discussed in the chapter on Paid Work.