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Youth engagement secures a smoother ride for rail users


Perth’s public transport network is safer thanks to ECU research.

A creative, community-led approach has helped Perth’s rail network become safer for young people and other passengers alike.

The collaboration began in 2005, when ECU researchers, local government, youth workers, and the Western Australian Public Transport Authority (PTA) sought to better understand how and why conflict arises in public spaces between young people and authority figures (including transport officers and security officers).

A change of approach

This collaboration has transformed the former approach of “moving on” troublesome youth, to actively engaging with them in a holistic way to build trust, and encourage more responsible use of the rail network.

The PTA has implemented the research findings to achieve various system improvements including greater safety and well-being (for passengers and staff), increased revenue collection, and a better public perception of the transport system.

Other positive outcomes have included reduced graffiti throughout the network, thanks to the creation of a successful Urban Art program.

The research led to increased and improved communication to young people about rail safety, and their rights as passengers, via the RightTrack program.

The RightTrack website has had more than 600,000 hits since 2013, and represents a collaborative effort between the PTA and youth agencies.

“The implementation of RightTrack has resulted in invitations to present it at numerous schools, juvenile detention centres and other fora and is constantly growing,” said PTA Transit Manager (Security) George Svirac.

“Its aim is to raise awareness, and ultimately reduce the number of incidents across the network, by incorporating a number of different ways to engage the local community.”

Research making a difference

The findings have also led to greater community engagement by PTA transit officers, who are now involved in youth outreach programs, similar to community police.

This has included a transit officer who is also an established hip-hop artist developing a popular music program for local youth – the first of its kind in Australia.

Transit officers now incorporate welfare and customer service into their roles, and are more aware of the vulnerability of some younger passengers.

The start of an important relationship

Lead researcher Associate Professor Trudi Cooper from the ECU School of Arts and Humanities has utilised her expert understanding of how young people use public spaces, and their risk-taking behaviour while doing so.

The initial research led to subsequent projects, supported by the WA Office for Crime Prevention, and the Attorney-General’s Department.

These investigations forecasted likely crime trends and suitable prevention methods around the development of Perth’s southern rail corridor; and assessed the effectiveness of night patrols in inner city Perth.

This work forms part of a pro-active research program within the School of Arts and Humanities that is focused on improving quality of social and community services.

It is powered by a cross-disciplinary group of researchers and partners within community and government agencies.

For further information contact ECU Research.

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