This morning I was on Sydney Road. I’ve been looking to move from one part of Brunswick to another and had a few flat viewings lined up. In between viewings, I helped a friend with some shopping before ending the morning at Lux Foundry for brunch. Like everyone else, we’ve been following the Jill Meagher tragedy closely all week with a mixture of disbelief and immense sadness and being there this morning, it was impossible not to be reminded of the terrible events.
I didn’t know Jill or her family. My only connection is that I’m around her age, live down the road from her and often frequent the same bars that she did that Friday night. The fact that she was taken from the world so horrendously and randomly by a person unknown to her has touched many of us in a way that few other crimes have – it could have easily been me or any of my girlfriends.
The mood along Sydney Road this morning was solemn. In every shop at every counter, people were talking about Jill, about the sea of flowers outside the local church and the bridal shop where she was last seen on CCTV, about their fear and grief. The flower man for La Manna joked that he should’ve sent his delivery straight to the church down the road, as that’s where they’re all making their way to anyway. Nobody quite knew how to respond to that, including him.
The question we all keep coming back to is this: how safe are we, really? People are unsettled, visibly rattled. I would be lying if I said that my concerns have remained unmoved in the last week. Friends and colleagues who know of my vicinity to Hope Street have continuously reminded me to stay safe. In Brunswick Bound and Spotlight today, I overheard locals revealing to strangers their fear and unease. It’s like when your house gets broken into for the first time and you realise that you’re unable to see your home in the same way again. You lose the feeling of absolute security and protection and regardless of how much you reinforce your locks and windows, and tell yourself it was an isolated incident, you will never return to that place of innocence and ignorance.
Has this awful event taken away a sense of security from the people in this neighbourhood? Quite possibly. But in the aftermath of it all, I witnessed this morning a community banding together, comforting and connecting with each other. Families and passers-by paused to pay respect at the many memorials dotted along Sydney Road, offering their love and support for two of their locals, one who sadly lost her life and another living with the weight of it all. We all wish this never happened. It shouldn’t have happened. But what it unearthed was a tight and caring community, and a reminder that we just have to keep looking out for each other.