In 2014, Sydney had a sickness – a sickness that can be seen in almost every city. We had a problem with nighttime violence. In March of 2016, with an assault on a hens’ party and a large street brawl breaking out within 24 hours and a few blocks of one another, it is apparent that this sickness hasn’t been cured. Certainly, the rates of violence have dropped since lockout laws were instated, but when the laws were put into place, the number of assaults was already falling.
As venues close by the dozen and nighttime foot traffic plummets across Sydney’s lockout zones, it’s clear that the medicine we’ve been fed to fight the violence is taking its own toll. Late opening hours funded everything from live music to performance programs, and as profits plummet it’s culture that is squeezed to exhaustion. They even squeeze those who haven’t cared about staying out late in years.
Sydney’s lockout laws were brought in abruptly and without consultation. They were ushered in under an umbrella of panic, and like most choices made hastily through the fog of grief, they were not particularly well thought out. This solution isn’t good enough for a global city. There is nothing shameful about wanting to stay up late at night; to be entertained at 3am. Going out late is something adults do joyfully all over the world – we should know, we’ve built a global publishing empire on it. Time Out was founded to celebrate an abundance of options. We exist to facilitate living a socially rich life. We exist to foster connection with a creative community. Right now, in Sydney, that sense of abundance is missing. The creative community we celebrate is feeling that pain.
Time Out Sydney isn’t calling for a repeal to the laws. We’re calling for a more measured, evidence-based response to nighttime violence, one that does not eviscerate all life at night. Safe streets are not the same as empty streets. Right now, law enforcement fails to see that difference. True security is being able to choose what you want, when you want it, and to be supported in that choice. On the following pages, you will find accounts from people whose choices have been limited, and whose stability has been shaken by the lockout laws. The first Round Table on these laws is held later today, the day this issue of Time Out Sydney hits stands. Right now, our State Government has options – more options than Sydney’s residents do. We urge them to choose the right ones.