I was out watching a sensational band called JK- RUFF in Brunswick, the night of Friday 21st September, 2012. I happened to be within a short bike ride's distance from Sydney Rd, where the most egregiously horrible offences and violations that can happen to a human being were about to occur, to a beautiful 29 year old Jillian Meagher. I too, like many other women could have been on foot, or on public transport (to save the planet!), but as it happened on this night, I was in my car, and was fortunate to get a park directly opposite the bar in Lygon St - North before I went inside to hear my favourite Melbourne band. Later on, I admit that I enjoyed the luxury, as a sober person, of then jumping in to my car and going up to Mc Donalds for a feed, which is just 2 kilometres across from Sydney Rd, where Jillian was last seen alive. That night there were too many symbols for me personally, which I wasn't yet aware of - I had discovered the band at a place called 'Paradise Hills' but this night the gig was on at the 'B-EAST'. Jillian was going to make her way down a very restless sounding 'Sydney' road, past 'Villains' and 'Impostors' to 'Hope St' and the road where her body was found was 'Black Hill' Rd, past 'Diggers Rest'. I always seem to read stuff in to place names and street names.
Nine days later, the city of Melbourne is reeling from this ghastly news about an abduction, rape and death of a young woman who worked for 774 Radio, in West Brunswick. When I think of the number of times it was late, and we had been having a few drinks, and we couldn't get a taxi or it was too late to get public transport, so I eventually had to split up from the people I was with, and had to climb aboard the Night Rider bus, and it was a long way home from the bus stop, albeit mostly down a main road. So yes, I too have walked back streets on my own at night. Going out in this city could become something you would have to plan days or even weeks in advance, if, as a single woman, you want to be 100 per cent guaranteed of personal safety (being accompanied) and safeguarding the environment as well.
So what is a woman to do? Unless she is guaranteed of having a husband or a friend to accompany her (and many women I know have husbands or partners who prefer not to come out with them!), is she meant to stay home? Are we to adopt the lifestyles of women whose customs and practices dictate they should only go out if they are accompanied by a group of women, or a man?
This is why hard-line environmental beliefs don't actually wash with me, because if you were to take a really firm view and never drive a car, then you would really be up Sh..t Creek in a paddle boat, when it comes to going out to hear live music, or comedy at night (and a paddle boat won't get you far in downtown melb). The trouble is that a lot of the night-life doesn't actually 'kick on' until the streets start to empty out, after 10 or 11pm. Catching a taxi run on gas is preferable to driving your own petrol-fuelled car (especially if you are having a few drinks), but the reality is they often just don't come when you need them, or they won't take you the distance.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sustainability of the environmental or social kind. Even when out as a group or as a couple, we could always be ambushed by a group. If they want to abduct a person, a group of experienced men will always find a way.
I therefore don't wish to assert as so many do - it's a lesson to these women who go walking at night. You can try to minimise risks but you can only do the best you can, at the time. And besides I am one of those women who has taken far too many risks. I know I would rather die, than live a paranoid, reclusive life.
But we as a society, and as a group have learned from Jill's awful fate, who sacrificed her life, you could say so that the offender could be caught, and the streets of Melbourne rendered safer. She also sacrificed her life so many of us would be forced to think about our habits (congregating outside a bar and smoking leaves you more exposed to predators) A pretty girl who is popular as Jillian was, is likely to attract 'unwanted' attention, especially if she has been seen outside bars a lot. Parts of Brunswick West are seriously seedy and no go zones. But seedy or not seedy, I was foolish enough to walk a long way home along a well-lit main road, from a party in my 20's and I was followed home by a young man, but I managed to talk my way out of the situation (being a bit of a talkative type!). I was foolish, young and also extremely lucky. But it was a once off party, and I wasn't walking home that same way, week after week, so it wasn't a pattern which this man could have come to anticipate. f we are going to walk at night, then we can certainly make it our business, to not set up patterns of behaviour, that others might schedule their night-stalking around!
And if a complete stranger does something to you or attempts something serious, for heaven's sake REPORT IT AND PUBLICISE IT.
Contributors to Converse Conserve.Com
Nicolle K., Peter Nesbit, (cartoonist) Chris Palmer (film-maker), Jackie Eco (comedienne),
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