BENDIGO’s streets were lined with a colourful and loud parade of people last night, but their thoughts were with those wandering in darkness and isolation.
The “reclaim the night” event, led by a group of local residents, was aimed at highlighting the basic right to feel safe when walking the streets.
About 200 women, men and children joined the walk to the Bendigo Town Hall, inspired by acts of violence including the abduction and murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne in September..
One of the organisers, Sky Lilly Simpson, said she was walking home by herself in Bendigo late at night last week, observing the brooding darkness and different characters around her street.
“I was walking alone, pregnant... There were two men in hoodies walking past me. I got home. And nothing happened. It was an unremarkable night, an ordinary walk home,” she said. Mrs Simpson said that event should be taken for granted as a normal occurrence and that living in fear was not something that should be tolerated.
Another organiser of the walk, Claire Flanagan-Smith, said recent high-profile acts of violence were alarming, but served as a reminder that people deserve to feel secure.
She said the murder of Jill Meagher had a strong emotional impact on a lot of women.
“We won’t stop walking at night. The greatest tragedy of all is for people to feel that they must be escorted,” she said.Centre Against Sexual Assault chief executive Eileen Oates said Bendigo was a relatively safe city but there was more that needed to be done to raise awareness of violence and harrassment.
She said the group should be congratulated for sparking the ongoing conversation of public safety.
The reclaim the night event was one of many staged around the country.