Illuminating Safety And Community Spirit

University of Newcastle

Produced by the University of Newcastle’s FastLab, four digital display structures were recently installed in City Park, Penrith, with the goal of helping women and girls feel safer in public spaces.

Penrith Pennies public art installation

Digital display structures, the Penrith Pennies

The digital display structures called the Penrith Pennies have been erected as part of Transport for NSW’s Smart Cities Innovation Challenge which is aimed at helping women and girls feel safer in public spaces.

The Pennies are being delivered by the University of Newcastle’s FastLab in partnership with Design Anthology, Saphi and Urbis after winning Transport for NSW’s second Smart Cities Innovation Challenge.

The design and development of the content on the Pennies was created through a co-design process with women and girls in the Penrith area.

Two workshops were held where participants were asked to consider how technology might help them feel safer in public spaces. The findings have informed the sensor-based technology and the content programming of each Penny.

The installations will use sound, light and artwork to encourage interaction. They will also display information about upcoming events in the area and gather data to help the NSW Government understand and improve perceptions of safety for women, girls and gender diverse people.

Transport for NSW provided $1million to the University of Newcastle for the solution. The University has previously installed similar display structures called “Night Galleries” in Newcastle to activate underutilised public spaces.

Lizzy Pattinson, Director, Strategic Projects and Innovation for Transport for NSW said:

“Research tells us that people feel safest in places that have plenty of people around, no matter what time of day.

“I’m thrilled we are putting in these installations, to help make City Park a brighter place, particularly as women and girls walk to Penrith Station, a major transport hub for Western Sydney.”

Professor Paul Egglestone, Director of FASTLab at the University of Newcastle said:

“Unsafe public spaces disproportionately affect women and girls, it’s a problem for our entire community.

We know the transformative power of technology and art projects in changing people’s experience and use of public spaces. Our collaborative research project – through the local Penrith community engaging with the ‘Pennies’ – has the potential to reveal ways we can foster a sense of cultural safety where everyone feels comfortable, included and valued.”

Mayor of Penrith Todd Carney said:

“I’m proud that City Park, a new landmark in the heart of Penrith is paving a path for technology and safety to coexist. It’s extremely important that we provide areas that are light and bright where everyone in our community can feel safe.

With these digital installations and sensor-based technology allowing green, open and public spaces like City Park to be well-lit and interactive, it enables women and girls to feel comfortable, particularly at night.

As City Park is a wonderful place to sit and relax, get active in, or meet up with family and friends, it is a great technological initiative for our City.”

/University Release. View in full here.