The Live Music Office is pleased to report that funding has been announced by the Victorian Government for a program to stop sexual assault and harassment in licenced venues with a particular focus on live music venues.

The program is the result of a taskforce and working group that includes members of LISTENSLAM (Save Live Australian Music), Music Victoria, Live Music Office and Victorian Police, that was convened in mid-2015 to figure out how to make venues safe spaces.

The taskforce’s proposal was for a training program for staff and security of nine venues, including education on how to respond to incidents and ensure victims are listened to and treated properly when making a complaint. The aim is to reduce the number of sexual assaults in venues and the pilot includes an evaluation program to see if it works.

The Victorian Minister For Equality And Creative Industries, Martin Foley, said, “We’ll be taking all those recommendations and implementing them all because if we’re serious about making Victoria the live music capital of Australia we need to make sure that it’s accessible for everyone and that includes being safe.”

The nine venues will be selected after consulting with the music industry and the trial will reportedly run from between six to 12 months, after which it could be expanded to the whole state. The venues program will comprise of education modules for venue staff and security on how to respond to incidents, ensure victims are treated properly and deal with the perpetrators appropriately.

Foley said, “We will drive this change from these nine venues to the wider Victorian live music sector.”

The Victorian Government said its aim is for the program to be  “a condition of licence” for venues and Katie Pearson from LISTEN said it should be extended to the private security industry.

“In an ideal world I’d like to see security guard training updated, because there’s no mention of sexual assault and harassment in that, and I’d like to see [responsible service of alcohol] training updated.”

The need for such a positive step in supporting venues as safe spaces is borne out by research done by Dr Bianca Fileborn from UNSW indicating sexual assaults and harassment are often underreported.

“Women in my research were reluctant to say anything because they didn’t know what sort of response they were going to get, they didn’t know if they were going to be believed or taken seriously,” she said.

Dr Fileborn’s 2012 survey of 230 young women found 96 per cent of respondents thought harassment happened in bars and clubs, 80 per cent thought it as ‘common’.