When there is extreme violence in your home, your country, your suburb, everything changes. About four days ago, the body of Jill Meagher was found, snatched and later tormented on the main road in popular Melbourne suburb Brunswick. Wintercoats lives around the corner. He tells us about the communities response since.
I’ve never been a morning person. I can’t distinctly remember any moment in my life were I’ve woken at a reasonable hour and felt ready and able to go about my daily routine. There are always downsides to this, such as sleeping through most of the daylight, missing quality daytime 80’s soapbox reruns and the inability to meet someone on time because what they consider meeting at a reasonable hour I consider as being asked to submit to an eternal struggle.
Now the one downside I haven’t mentioned yet is the one the turns 10 minutes of my day into what feels like a lifelong anxiety attack. That being late night shift work. It’s not the idea of working at night that I consider being terrifying, it’s the walk home after every shift late at night or in the early hours of the morning.
From living in Ballarat and up until this time last year in Brunswick where I currently live this is a brief summary of my experiences of walking home at night. Two successful (if you would want to call it that) muggings, the first time being pushed over, kicked in the back of the skull, and having my phone broken in front of me (well, he didn’t get a phone so maybe that one wasn’t successful), and the second time 500 meters from my house which entailed being kicked behind my knee and having a few hundred dollars stolen from my wallet. Outside of that there’s numerous verbal altercations, bottles thrown from cars, another attempted mugging at the station near my house, and of course the occasional non-bottle related item being thrown from a moving car (this is a very typical event in Ballarat just so you know).
It becomes increasingly more difficult over time to acknowledge that a sense of community can still exist when you’ve experienced so many negative moments from people who are apart of it. It’s a mentality the can very easily be created, but is a lot harder to undo.
There’s a lot I could write from this point to try and explain what it’s been like in the last week and a bit living in Brunswick after the murder of Jill Meagher, but it really feels like I would need to write a novel to explain atmosphere that’s the area has been covered by. The idea of walking alone at night to anyone seemed to be a terrifying prospect, even more that it had been before,
Last night after work I walked home for the first time since it happened, and out of a building a young woman I had never met walked out. Usually when I walk home people like to keep their distance, or cross to the other side, but she walked incredibly closely, almost side by side. Only a block after passing the station, a second shadow started to trail, and within seconds of turning my head around a man around my said, “it’s feels strange walking here now.” From that one sentence, no one needed to ask. We all walked together as if we had all met before, and about 100 meters from where I live, the girl simply said “thank you for walking me home.” One block later the man who we had walked with had reached his house but asked how much further I had to walk. I told him I was literally only a few meters down the road, and said goodnight.
Three days before this, I felt as though I had missed something beautiful when 30,000 people from Melbourne marched down Sydney Road united as a community after the tragic events. But it only took ten minutes, and two people who I had never met before to restore my faith in the decency of people, and the idea that a community is not an old-fashioned idea.
I just finished work again a few hours ago. I’ve never felt more comfortable walking home.
Curated by East to West
Photo by James Bradfield