Anniversary march planned for murder victim Jill Meagher

Anniversary march planned for murder victim Jill Meagher

Another community march is being planned to remember Melbourne woman Jill Meagher, who became the public face of Victoria’s parole system failures.


It’s a case that frightened the nation, changed criminal law, and focused a spotlight on a horrific problem in Melbourne.

A year on since her death, Australia is remembering Jill Meagher.

“It has changed Victoria forever,” Premier Denis Napthine recalled on Friday as the anniversary of her death drew near.

Since the killing of 22 September, 2012, tens of thousands have left flowers at the crime scene, painted laneways with Ms Meagher’s name, joined Facebook tribute sites, and marched in her honour.

Artist and photographer Philip Werner is planning an anniversary peace march in remembrance of the slain ABC employee – and the unprecedented community response that occurred a week after her rape and murder by a violent parolee.

Mr Werner says he’s no activist, but people have been asking if another march could be planned after last year’s attracted 30,000 people.

“It touched many people in quite a profound way,” he said.

“Often we can have feelings and we’re not quite sure what to do with them. Jill’s case was like an outlet. There was so much tension and everyone had a place to put these feelings.”

He said the anniversary march – to be held on 29 September at noon along Sydney Road in Brunswick – will be an opportunity for people to come together in “peaceful defiance” once again.

“We need to do something positive with these negative feelings,” he said.

The state government had ordered a review of the parole system after Ms Meagher was killed by a serial rapist on parole last year and found a litany of problems.

Victims and community leaders were infuriated.

The parole board had been exposing the public to higher risk because its decisions were tilted in favour of offenders, not victims, the government’s own review had found.

Dr Napthine said the system clearly failed Ms Meagher, her widowed husband and her grieving family.

His government has spent the past 12 months toughening up parole laws to ensure that such a tragedy can never happen again.

“Community safety must be the first and highest priority for our parole board,” he said.

It’s now an offence to breach parole conditions.

Police will be able to arrest and detain alleged offenders for committing crimes on parole, sending them back before the parole board.

Victims will be given two weeks’ notice before the person who hurt them is released from prison, along with many other changes too.

Previously, there was no compulsion and no timelines for the parole board to alert victims, leading to some victims being unaware an offender had been released.

But what was most disturbing from the fallout from Ms Meagher’s case was that it was revealed how she wasn’t the first victim of a parole system failure.

There had been at least a dozen people in Victoria killed by criminals on parole in the past seven years.

None of these cases prompted much public action or change, however, until Ms Meagher’s name was added to that growing and tragic list – largely because the 29-year-old’s death could have been prevented and she was a completely random victim.

Her chance encounter with a violent parolee on a short walk home from a pub made many realise, for the first time, that something was seriously wrong with the system – and had been for a long time.

Her rapist and killer, Adrian Ernest Bayley, had been on parole and on bail for an assault but was still roaming the streets late at night.

He raped her, murdered her, and buried her in a shallow grave.

But he was caught within a week and is now serving life with no parole for at least 35 years.

The judge in sentencing said the murder case ranked among some of the worst in Victoria’s history.

Authorities have since admitted Bayley’s parole should have been cancelled long before Ms Meagher was ever attacked.

Mr Werner said those awful details stirred up a lot of anger in the community.

But he hopes the legacy Ms Meagher will leave behind is that there is far more compassion in the world than evil.

“Yes, violence is an unfortunate part of our reality and a lot of times it can seem like nobody cares,” he said.

“But one legacy of this is that we saw how the vast majority of people do care, and care very deeply.

“We won’t be forgetting her for a very long time.” – AAP

Australian Times

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