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Mar 02, 2008 News: Safety Concerns Highlighted in New Study
By Sven Rabatzky

(Australia) - A new report reveals a steady undercurrent of hostility during and after large-scale Gay and Lesbian events. The University of Newcastle's Cultural Institutions and Practices Research Centre report titled "When the Glitter Settles: safety and hostility at and around gay and lesbian public events", shows 40 per cent of people attending these events had witnessed abusive or violent behaviour.

Nearly 30 per cent of those surveyed had personally experienced some form of harassment or hostility at a public gay and lesbian event. The report also found incidents were most likely related to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and less than one per cent of all matters were reported to police.

The findings are based document analysis, interviews, focus groups and an online survey of 332 people, including many who participated in Mardi Gras celebrations between 2004 and 2006.

Report co-author Dr Kevin Markwell said the findings would come as a surprise to many people.

"Event organisers, police and public officials involved in the planning and regulation of these celebrations generally stress the good order of these occasions.

"There is an assumption that gay and lesbian events are filled with goodwill and cheer but the reality is these perceptions are wrong, in particular once an event ends."

The report found that travelling home from an event was viewed as the single most risky aspect of attending.

Many respondents said they deliberately altered their behaviour or adopted strategies to reduce the likelihood of attracting unwanted attention. This included changing appearances and acting 'straight', travelling in groups or avoiding public transport.

Dr Markwell said the social and economic benefits of large-scale gay and lesbian events were considerable, yet their ongoing success and growth may be in jeopardy if all aspects of safe attendance were not addressed.

"Any sense of threat perceived by participants at these or similar events will prove to be an important factor in the long-term viability of such celebrations.

"There needs to more discussion about safety by all parties involved including participants, organisers, security staff, police and local authorities, especially in relation to post-event incidents."

Dr Markwell, from the University's School of Economics, Politics and Tourism, co-authored the report with Associate Professor Stephen Tomsen from the University's Faculty of Education and Arts.

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