Griffith University: MATE and QMusic to create safe spaces at gigs

Griffith University’s MATE Bystander program and QMusic are partnering on a new initiative to create a better culture around consent.

The Safe Places – Live Music Venue Pilot Program will trial framework that promotes respectful, safe and inclusive behaviour for women, First Nations and LGBTQIA+ community members in music venues.

MATE Bystander program co-director Shaan Ross-Smith said live gigs were the perfect place to start the program due to the community nature of people sharing music together.

“Music intrinsically sets culture, we are connected to its themes and lyrics in a unique and powerful way,” she said.

“We want to consciously consider the impact that the arts have on culture and what shifts we need to make toward a beautiful, safe, equal and inclusive future.”

Data recently presented at a Queensland Government roundtable showed a 30 per cent increase in reports of sexual-based offences within or around licensed establishments since 2016, even though sexual assault reporting is estimated to be under-reported by as much as 70 per cent.

Two events were held at The Zoo and Fortitude Music Hall in May, where staff members took part in training delivered by MATE.

“The training we conducted is designed to empower people with skills to be proactive in recognising and addressing problematic behaviour, in turn preventing sexual assaults and violence,” Ms Ross-Smith said.

“Staff now understand that it’s on them to act and it’s not just their manager’s responsibility.

“They can start spotting those behaviours and know what to say in a really respectful manner to address that behaviour before it escalates.

“We believe it is everyone’s responsibility to take an active role in eliminating sexual harassment, assaults and violence.”

The team set up a ‘safe space’ at each gig for people to take a breather, speak to someone, or just to grab some lollies, water, tea or coffee. Patrons were also encouraged to download the MATE Bystander Be There app, a world-leading free smartphone app designed to help people become effective bystanders.

“It’s about taking a collective and holistic approach to cultural change in these venues so patrons, staff and artists feel safe and supported moving forward.”

QMusic CEO Kris Stewart said the initiative recognises the role music plays in bringing about real behavioural change within our community.

“Throughout the music industry we need to start the conversation about change, creating safety in our venues, improving patron confidence and educating people in how to get help,” he said.

The trial was made possible by a Queensland Government Investing in Queensland Women grant and is planned to continue at other gigs and venues throughout 2022.




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