FEELINGS OF SAFETY
Having trust in others to behave according to accepted social values and norms is a fundamental aspect of a well-functioning community. Data which seeks to measure levels of trust in others is recognised as being important to monitoring levels of social capital. Two indirect measures of trust available from ABS surveys are people's feelings of safety while at home alone and walking alone in their local area after dark. Feeling unsafe may relate to fear of threat from other people or to the possibility of not having someone else around to provide help in the case of a health-related mishap, such as a fall. In either case, it might be expected that having close links with others in one's vicinity or having established habits of contacting others for help if needed, would increase feelings of safety.
This topic examines trust mostly in terms of the proportion of people who feel safe (including 'very safe') alone at home after dark and walking alone in the local area after dark. The data used here, from the 2006 General Social Survey, reveal substantial differences in feelings of safety among population subgroups.
People with profound or severe disability who are intellectually or psychologically impaired are less likely to report feeling safe at home alone at night (56% and 61% respectively), compared to 73% of people with a physical disability and 88% of people who do not have a disability.
When disability status and sex of respondent were combined, it compounded the results, as females with a disability were the least likely to report feeling safe or very safe at home alone after dark (68% of females with profound or severe disability reported feeling safe, compared to 96% of males without disability). People without disability were more likely to report feeling safe at home after dark across all age groups, although the gap narrowed in the 65–84 year age bracket (see Graph 6).
Disparity between the feelings of safety of those with profound or severe disability and people without disability was is greatest in South Australia (see Graph 7).
Responses to ‘whether people felt safe walking alone after dark in local area’ also showed distinctive patterns. Males were more likely than females to report feeling safe. While people with profound or severe disability were less likely to report feeling safe, their sex had a large influence on reporting. Of women with profound or severe disability, 13% reported they felt safe, while 43% of men with profound or severe disability responded that they felt safe walking alone after dark (see Graph 8).
People with profound or severe disability were consistently less likely to report feeling safe walking in their local area after dark through all age groups. For most age groups, there was a similar pattern in reporting feeling safe, with the gap between people with profound or severe disability and those without disability hovering between 13% to 20% in the majority of age groups. There was a larger gap in the youngest age group, suggesting their levels of trust in the community were lower (see Graph 9).