Thousands join peace march in memory of murdered Jill
THE street where Jill Meagher met her tragic death was thronged with thousands of people who joined a peace march to honour the memory of the murdered woman.
A year after 30,000 took to the streets in a spontaneous outpouring of grief, another huge crowd turned out to show that Jill, from Drogheda, Co Louth, had not been forgotten.
There were tears as the marchers silently filed past the spot on Sydney Road, Brunswick, where Jill (29) was dragged into an alley by serial rapist Adrian Ernest Bayley.
Some of the marchers carried banners calling for an end to violence against women and for tougher sentencing laws, others carried flowers, but most made their point by simply taking part.
Mums pushed their kids in prams, teenagers walked alongside pensioners and all were united in their call for an end to violence.
Victoria State Premier Dr Denis Napthine, the Mayor of Moreland Oscar Yildiz and other political figures joined the march.
Dr Napthine, who donned a white peace ribbon, attended in a private capacity and said the outpouring of grief and solidarity had not diminished a year on from the first peace march.
The premier said he wanted Jill's husband Tom and the other members of her family to know that the Victoria community supported them and were determined to learn the lessons from her murder.
"There was a spontaneous feeling right across Melbourne and Victoria that we need to take a stand," Dr Napthine said.
"We need to say to people that women should feel safe in our streets and in our communities".
"We need to say to Jill's family and everybody in Ireland that Jill's got a place in our hearts forever here in Melbourne and Victoria," said Dr Napthine.
Bayley (42), who had a shocking history of violence against women and was on parole when he raped and murdered Jill, is serving a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 35 years.
Last week, the Victorian Court of Appeal took just 10 minutes to reject his appeal against the length of the non-parole period.
Drogheda friends Emer Devitt, Margo Brady and Barry Byrne, who arrived in Melbourne two months ago did not know Jill, but marched together to show their support for her and the community.
"We just wanted to represent Drogheda, to represent Jill, just to be part of the Irish that are here," said Ms Devitt, who carried the Irish Tricolour.
"We weren't here at the time (of the murder) but we wanted to give her family the knowledge we are all behind them."
Ms Devitt said she was astounded so many people had turned out.
"It just makes us love Australia even more to think this many people, even a year later, are coming to march. It's amazing," she said.
Ms Brady said it was a sad day but also an inspirational one, particularly for someone from Jill's home town.
"It's good to be here and have a bit of positivity," Ms Brady said. "It's definitely strengthened the ties between Australia and Ireland. It feels like home today."
Mr Yildiz said the number of marchers was a testament to the strength of feeling in the community.
He said the mayor of Drogheda plans to travel to Melbourne in November and they will discuss the permanent memorial that is planned at the Northern Metropolitan Cemetery, a short distance from Brunswick.
"We need to respect the wishes of the family," Mr Yildiz said. "We will be liaising with Tom and Jill's parents. We will certainly be listening to what they want us to do."
Artist Phillip Werner, whose Facebook post sparked last year's march, said people wanted to express their faith in humanity and their belief in peace.