Matter of Interest
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:35): I rise today to speak about the Ask for Angela safety campaign. In 2016, Hayley Child, a sexual violence and abuse strategy coordinator for Lincolnshire County Council in the UK, created the Ask for Angela initiative in response to the growing popularity of online dating and the potential increased risk this poses. With online dating, it is common for people to meet in public places after initially making contact online or via a mobile phone application. In some circumstances, these meetings can become uncomfortable when one person believes the other has misrepresented themselves or they turn out to be decidedly different to what they had envisaged.
In many situations, it is merely awkward, but at times it can become unnerving and distressing. It is in these situations that people can 'ask for Angela'. Patrons in all participating bars and hotels can ask staff for a woman named Angela if they are feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. The name Angela serves as a codeword to alert staff that a patron needs assistance to discreetly leave the venue. Staff can lead them away to a safe place, alert the police if necessary or escort them to the back of the venue to a taxi or an Uber.
The initiative understands that it can be difficult to just simply leave a situation or to reach out and explain to someone exactly why you are feeling unsafe, intimidated or threatened, and allows individuals to seek help in a discreet and safe manner. Individuals do not need to justify why they feel unsafe. Staff are trained to ensure that prompt action is taken to ensure that the person is separated from the individual who makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Posters advertising the initiative are often placed in the bathrooms of participating venues to advise individuals of the support available.
Earlier this month, the New South Wales government launched the campaign across Sydney, after successful trials in Wagga Wagga, Albury, Orange and Byron Bay. According to the New South Wales police assistant commissioner, Mark Walton, sexual assault offences increased by 8 per cent in the central metropolitan area last year. On 50 per cent of those occasions, the perpetrator and the victim were meeting for the first time. He has hopes that the Ask for Angela initiative will help individuals escape potential assaults. The success of the campaign will be monitored by police before it is implemented broadly.
In the last 10 years, the number of reported sexual assaults in South Australia has risen by more than 20 per cent. Considering the success of the Ask for Angela campaign overseas and in New South Wales, this campaign is a step in the right direction, and consideration should be given to introducing it to South Australia.