It’s been almost five years since Jill Meagher was murdered on her way home from a night out in Melbourne’s inner north.
The 29-year-old was attacked just few blocks from her Brunswick home, for no reason other than that she was a woman who dared to walk alone at night.
Meagher’s story — and the many others like it — have undoubtedly contributed to more than half of Australian women still feeling scared to venture out after dark.
It’s a stifling and unfair reality, which Melbourne’s CoDesign Studio is hoping to change, one street at a time.
“It’s just shocking that Melbourne is one of the world’s most liveable cities and we’re not immune to this,” Senior Project Manager Dani De Rose told Mamamia.
"We know that at we can do something in the urban realm to make it better."
Through two pilot projects, both based in Brunswick, the group have already injected life back into some of the city's most neglected spaces, and gained international recognition in the process.
Late last year, De Rose and her team flew to Singapore to pitch their concept in the Project Inspire competition, a joint initiative from the Singapore Committee for UN Women and Mastercard.
The competition is a platform for ambitious young 'change-makers' to share their vision — and plan— to empower women and girls in the Asia Pacific region, under the banner of "safety and security".
The yearly grand prize is US$25,000, but a number of US$10,000 grants are also awarded.
While CoDesign didn't win (that honour went to CareNx Innovations for their CareMother Mobile Pregnancy Care Kit for mums-to-be living in remote parts of India), they are more passionate than ever about continuing their mission at home.
With the help of the local community, of course.
Locals lend a hand during the Saxon Street working bee. Image: Supplied[/img_caption]
"Perhaps the global goal is to influence the way that we make cities to make sure they’re more participatory and collaborative with local people," De Rose said.
"We want to shift the culture of city making to include women’s participation.
"We should all be able to participate fully and be the best versions of ourselves."
So far, the studio, who believes "a city's greatest asset is its people", have already made over Brunswick's Saxon Street and Chook Lane.
Their role is as mentors and facilitators, seeking input from the community and harnessing their skills.
After all, the idea is to create places the people actually want to use. And the results — achieved through local run working bees — speak for themselves.
"People have a lot more power than they think," De Rose said.
"If we mobilise and try to achieve a common goal, we’ll get it done."
According to a recent survey, one in five Australians don't talk to their neighbours. One in 10 don't know them at all.
Connecting people is at the heart of CoDesign's mission.
"It will be a stronger and more thriving and resilient place. It’s a call out for everyone, but particularly women. They will see the benefits of a place transformation that will allow them to move more freely in their spaces.
"If we wait for other people to improve these unsafe public spaces we’ll be waiting for a long time."