More than a third of Australians (36 per cent) feel unsafe during daylight hours, rising to 53 per cent after dark with cybercrime top of the list of national safety concerns according to the inaugural Australian Security Confidence Index (ASCI), study commissioned by the Australian Security Industry Association Ltd (ASIAL), to gauge how safe and secure Australians feel in various situations.

The study was designed to take the pulse of the population regarding personal and workplace safety and security. NielsenIQ was asked to help identify key issues of importance to the Security Industry and to help shape policy conversations with government in the areas of regulation and law.

The inaugural ASCI study sends an important message to government and the Security Industry and ASIAL is calling for a national conversation about security.

NielsenIQ asked a representative sample of more than 1,600 Australians aged 18 plus to rate how safe they feel overall, and in a variety of settings such as using public transport, walking city streets, in their local neighbourhood, at home, work, school and online.

The study is timely because it comes a year into the world’s most severe pandemic in a century and at a time of heightened awareness of dangers in suburbia, cities, at home, at work, abroad and online. According to the Australian Security Confidence Index, Australia may be the “Lucky Country” and it may even be a happy country, but Australians do not necessarily feel that they live in a safe country.

Only 1 in 5 Australians feels very safe overall. While only 5 per cent of Australians report feeling very unsafe, this is significantly higher among those aged 40-54, those living in Melbourne, the unemployed, in low-income households, and those who identify as being of Indian ethnic background.

New South Wales and the ACT residents are more likely than residents of other states to feel unsafe during daylight hours while people in South Australia and the Northern Territory are the most likely to feel unsafe at night.

More than half of Australians feel unsafe in situations at night with women feeling more vulnerable and some ethnic groups, such as people of Indian or Chinese origin, also feeling more exposed.

The activities Australians feel most unsafe doing during the day include using licensed taxis (15 per cent), going to the cinema/theatre (15 per cent) and using public transport (14 per cent).

All activity is perceived as much more dangerous at night, with public transport jumping to 33 per cent, being at local parks/sportsgrounds rising to 31 per cent and walking in local streets up to 26 per cent.

NSW/ACT scored highest in feeling unsafe during the day using taxis (16 per cent), public transport (15 per cent), going to restaurants and bars (12 per cent), being around local educational institutions (12 per cent) and being in their own home (4 per cent).

Interestingly, while NSW/ACT topped the state league table for feeling unsafe using public transport during the day (15 per cent), at night it dropped to 5th position (30 per cent), behind SA/NT (42 per cent), VIC (37 per cent), QLD and WA (both 33 per cent).

People living in South Australia and the Northern Territory were most likely to feel unsafe during the day going to their local hospitals (12 per cent) and medical centres (9 per cent), walking local streets (10 per cent) and in local shopping centres (9 per cent) with feelings of being unsafe jumping significantly at night across the board.

The Melbourne CBD scored the highest feelings of being unsafe by day (12 per cent) and by night (28 per cent). Additionally, Victorians were the most likely to feel unsafe using their local airports both by day (14 per cent) and by night (19 per cent).

Queenslanders were more likely than residents of other states to feel unsafe using local parks and sportsgrounds during the day (8 per cent), while West Australians feel safest in all contexts during the day.

Many Australians feel unsafe online (41 per cent), with fears of cybercrime, identity theft and other cyberattacks while using online banking, chatting on social media or online shopping. Social media feels unsafe to a significant 21 per cent of people in NSW and the ACT, 12 per cent of Queenslanders are worried about online banking and more than a third (33 per cent) of people in South Australia and the Northern Territory feel unsafe shopping online.

Shopping from Australian retailers was of least concern (8 per cent), when compared to shopping from foreign (29 per cent) and even global retailers like Amazon (14 per cent). Almost one in five (19 per cent) are concerned about using social media sites.

The key concerns around shopping from foreign retailers, global retailers and using social media, were consistent whether using personal or workplace IT.

Across most situations except for shopping online from foreign retailers, safety concerns are higher when using company IT. Females and those aged 55+ are more likely to feel unsafe across most work-related situations, with females also over-indexing on being at their work premises at night, using work email for private conversations and browsing the internet at work.

Nationally, the top 5 areas of concern revealed by the ASCI study are:

1. Cyber attacks (24 per cent) is significantly higher among those who work in town or CBD. IT workers are equally as likely to fear cyber attacks, but more feel very safe. Regular internet users are also equally as likely to feel unsafe from the risk of cyber attacks.

2. Robbery (21 per cent) is significantly higher among females, particularly 40-54 year-olds, the unemployed or employed part-time, semi-skilled workers and lower household income Australians.

3. Physical assault (19 per cent) is significantly higher among females, 18-24 year-olds, particularly Females 18-24 and 40-54, the unemployed or employed part-time, semi-skilled workers, retail workers, lower income Australians, large families of 5 or more, or of Indian ethnicity.

4. Sexual assault (18 per cent) is higher among females, 18-24 year-olds, particularly Females 18-54, those employed part-time, semi-skilled workers or in large families of five or more.

5. Terrorist attacks (15 per cent) is higher for females, particularly 55+ year-olds, semi-skilled workers and Asians.
While not significantly higher, those living in SA/NT are more likely than residents of other states to feel unsafe from cyber attacks (26 per cent), terrorist attacks (19 per cent), sexual (23 per cent) and physical (25 per cent) assaults. Victorians were more concerned than residents of other states about robbery (24 per cent).

There are probably many reasons behind these findings, including recent events surrounding COVID-19, particularly in Victoria, dangers reported in the news including assaults on Indian foreign students, online crime, the phenomenon of trolling and cyber bullying, increased awareness of urban risks especially relating to women and children, terrorism news coverage and growing tensions between nations overseas.

Nevertheless, the findings reveal an abiding sense of threat in the minds of Australians who are often listed as among the happier people in the world in studies such as the United Nations’ World Happiness Report.

ASIAL’s Bryan de Caires said that the ASCI study sheds light on issues of great importance to the Security Industry.

“We see incidents of reported crime trending downward nationally and yet this persistent feeling of being unsafe persists,” de Caires said. “This presents the security industry with important challenges to contribute to the nation’s growing sense of safety and security and that’s why we have launched the Horizon 2025 project to get a grip on the most pressing security issues confronting Australia today.

According to de Caires, the ASCI study also sends an important signal to all governments.

“Local, State/Territory and the Federal Government should take note that all of us deserve the right to feel safe and not have our lifestyles diminished,” he said. “The opportunity here is to have a national conversation about security in Australia and it is crucial that all the governments work as a team towards national standards that will give Australians genuine safety and security but also the strong feeling of safety that they should have.”

In addition to the obvious emotional and mental health issues surrounding a feeling of being unsafe, there is also an economic factor to this issue because people who are concerned about exposure to dangers in city streets at night and online are less likely to spend their money in these settings, according to de Caires.

“The nation confronts many important civic issues such as homelessness, health issues, mental health, pay parity, anti-discrimination and more. But safety and security affect all of us no matter our age, race, gender, location or economic circumstances,” he said.

The ASIAL plans to partner with NielsenIQ annually to deliver an updated Australian Security Confidence Index at the start of every year to monitor how secure Australians feel in all walks of life.

#securityelectronicsandnetworks.com