Committee for Melbourne: Tackling ‘unconscious bias’ with female traffic signals


In early 2017 the Melbourne CBD had pedestrian traffic lights installed at the Flinders St and Swanston St intersection which depicted female figures. The move was orchestrated by a ‘non-profit organisation comprising of 120 Melbourne business and community groups’ known as the Committee for Melbourne.

The ‘inclusive’ initiative was welcomed by Victorian Governor Linda Dessau AC, who is also the Patron of the Committee for Melbourne. In 2015 Linda Dessau was sworn in as the first female Governor of Victoria after a ‘distinguished career in litigation and family law, and also having:

‘…held a broad range of leadership roles in the community, championing judicial education, the arts, social support services, healthcare, and Melbourne’s sporting heritage, and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010 for services to family law and the community’.

The board of directors for the Committee for Melbourne comprises of industry and community leaders of a similar ilk, as is the case for the Committee’s Chief Executive Martine Letts, who was whole heartedly vocal in her efforts to see female pedestrian traffic lights in Melbourne’s CBD. Arguing that the male only traffic signals discriminated against women, Ms Letts stated that:

“The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias”.

Minister for Women, Fiona Richardson voiced her support for the measure claiming that it promoted a more inclusive public space for women because:

“There are many small — but symbolically significant — ways that women are excluded from public space”.

The Minister went on to lament how:

“A culture of sexism is made up of very small issues, like how the default pedestrian crossings use a male figure — and large issues such as the rate of family violence facing women”.

The ABC reported that the average cost in changing six traffic lights was $8,400. While the move was welcomed by the Victorian Governor and some elected officials, what’s essentially happened is that a small group of unelected elites have lobbied to have the taxpayer burdened with this measure, in the hope that women will feel better about their place in the world and that vulgarities and violence against them will ultimately decrease.

Key questions that needs to be asked are: how is the scale of success being measured by the implementation of these traffic signals? How will the taxpaying Melbournian know if their money has been well spent? What will be the key indication – if any – that the measure has failed?

The death of Euradice Dixon has prompted a great deal of publicity and calls for a concerted effort to denigrate manhood, so it’s worth considering if, given this tragedy, perhaps the female themed traffic signals aren’t having their desired effect on the community. Perhaps evil people will do evil things regardless of what traffic lights they happen upon on their journeys around the CBD.

So do you think Victorians should ask for their money back? Should we demand that the same amount of money spent on these traffic signals be put to something with more tangible yields?

Does Melbourne need female traffic signals?

  • No (94%, 246 Votes)
  • Yes (6%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 262

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Have your say in the comments below.

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