STRUGGLING with security concerns? The Safer Community Program at the University of Melbourne has developed a free app to enhance the personal safety of students, staff, and visitors. Faridah Wu reports.
When I began my first year of university in Melbourne, I was worried about travelling alone. As a new female student without the safety net of family and friends, I had to learn how to keep myself safe at all times.
Generally, I make sure to prepare myself when in a foreign country. Even when I am travelling overseas for a short holiday, I always memorise the local police and ambulance numbers first (which by the way, is 000 in Australia).
Many international students prefer Melbourne because the city has topped the Economist Intelligence Unit’s list of most liveable cities for the last three years in a row. By national and world standards, Melbourne is a safe city. However, this does not guarantee that no crime or violence will occur.
A University of Melbourne student, who wished to remain anonymous, explained, “If I’m out late at night, I’ll usually Whatsapp my roommate to let her know where I am. And I try to get friends to walk me home.”
In response to these concerns, the Safer Community Program has launched a free smartphone app named UniSafe for the University of Melbourne. The app is the first of its kind in Australia, and includes a bevy of tips to staying safe in situations such as taking public transport and drink spiking.
The app provides links to the university’s support services, such as International Student Support, Counselling and Psychological Services, and Health Service.
The campus security section includes a map of the Emergency Blue Telephones installed throughout the campus, which are direct intercoms to Security. The section also provides direct buttons to call the campus emergency line or general enquiry line.
The Emergency Contacts section stands out in bright red, providing a direct button to call the Campus Emergency hotline or Australia’s Emergency Number.
The app’s security escorts section also highlights one of the university’s 24 hour services. If you feel uncomfortable walking alone at night, a campus security officer can escort you to your car or other public transport pick-up points. There are also female security officers to reassure female students.
The app also includes a personal safety toolbox, comprised of a flashlight, a loud alarm, and even a tool to share your location with a friend.
“One of the handiest tools is the flashlight for walking though the campus at night… at the touch of a button, students can find their way around in the evening,” says Sally Coates, the Safer Community Manager.
Now that the new academic year is about to begin, I’m returning to school feeling more secure about my safety. Not only am I more familiar with the campus grounds, I know that everything I need is in my pocket.
I would highly recommend any student, international or otherwise, download this app. Even if you do go through your school years without using it, safety is never secondary.
More safety tips to take note of:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Plan your route in advance and travel in well-lit areas as much as possible
- Travel with friends and avoid deserted areas
- Stay alert – do not be distracted by your phone or headphones
- Do not leave drinks unattended or accept drinks from strangers
- Do not drive if you intend to drink alcohol
- Do not be afraid to ask for help – Australians are generally friendly!