- Increased sustained investment in community safety measures including that address the social and built environments.
- Increased sustained investment in accessible and tailored community and clinical mental health services and the full implementation of the Victorian Government’s Royal Commission into the Mental Health System.
- Increased community volunteering, digital inclusion and evidence-based initiatives that address youth engagement.
- Increased investment for place-based community development, including emergency preparedness, response and recovery plans.
- Partnerships that adopt a collective approach to integrated support services and address issues through education, prevention and early intervention.
The impacts of COVID-19 have exacerbated existing inequities and highlighted the importance of community resilience in disaster preparedness, future shocks, climate change and community recovery. Community resilience refers to the capacity of communities to respond positively to crises, address related impacts to minimise harm and remain engaged in their community and have a sense of belonging. Resilient communities recover better from emergencies and major disruptions i.e., resilience is measured by ability of communities to bounce back from adversity.
Community resilience provides opportunities before, during and after crises and other major shocks, to identify and address inequities. This is important for inclusive recovery strategies that support the community, with focus on the cohorts which are the most marginalised. Community resilience is impacted by a range of intersecting factors and therefore can be addressed through key physical, social and emotional dimensions that inform positive economic, health and wellbeing outcomes.
Overarching themes where M9 Councils have collective interests to address community resilience, include community safety, mental health, impacts for young people and place-based community development approaches to address disadvantage. Community led recovery is key to effective restoration of community structures / life.
Both local and state government maintain public spaces and amenity and therefore play a central role in supporting community members to feel safer and more engaged with the local communities. Community safety initiatives, with a focus on physical and social environments, can contribute to building community resilience.
The management of the physical environment is important for crime prevention because poorly designed, maintained and managed places create opportunities for crime and make people feel unsafe.
The intentional ‘activation’ of streets and public spaces is key, ranging from design measures to ensure passive surveillance; building social connection; and enabling programming of events.
The presence of graffiti does not strongly correlate to increased crime rate or lower perceptions of safety. However, graffiti in conjunction with other environmental and social factors, can create a perceived sense of disorder and lack of ownership.
Community members have different perceptions of safety, depending on their age, gender, ethnicity, experiences, health and abilities. The way that community spaces and infrastructure are designed can have significant implications for women’s perceptions of safety. The Gender Equality Act (2020) has placed renewed focus on safety and inclusivity in the design and maintenance of community infrastructure and public spaces, ensuring that the needs of women and gender-diverse people are addressed.
Research commissioned by the Community Crime Prevention Unit (CCPU) found that frequent and intense concerns about crime was not widespread in Victoria, and that the most effective way to reduce these concerns in the broader community is through pro-social activities that encourage community cohesion and connectedness. Therefore, a holistic approach is required to promote liveability and participation in community life, not just as a direct means of preventing crime, but to improve health and wellbeing.
COVID-19 and associated lockdowns have contributed to and exacerbated mental ill-health for Victorians, particularly those experiencing disadvantage. Insufficient resourcing means communities are unable to access the mental health support and services that they require. Connected and welcoming communities can be a protective factor for some mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety and addressing issues such as loneliness and social isolation.
This is further exacerbated in communities experiencing disadvantage and experiencing barriers (including availability, affordability and capacity-building/digital literacy) in accessing technology.
Mental health impacts for young people have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic, including the increased risk of vulnerable children and young people disengaging from school and/or falling behind in learning as well as sporting and community life.
Community development and place-based approaches
Community engagement, strong local networks and partnerships are instrumental for identifying priorities and solutions that are appropriate, sustainable and supported by the affected communities.
Empowering community led initiatives allows communities to generate the financial and human capital to identify, prioritise and achieve their own goals, which can be beyond the scope of government or service intervention.