'I live minutes away from where Samantha Murphy went missing. The unease is palpable.'

Around the regional city of Ballarat, there are several state and regional forests, bush trails and tracks that attract both visitors and locals to mountain bike, motorbike ride, hike and run through.

Woowokarung Regional Park is one of these.

Located in Wadawurrung Country, Woowokarung - meaning 'the place of plenty' - is usually known as a park "by the people, for the people." Over the past week though, it has garnered headlines not for its intrinsic sense of welcome, its natural beauty, the wildlife and flora that it's home to, but instead for being the centre of a missing persons inquiry. 

Ballarat East woman, Samantha Murphy, left her home at 7am on Sunday, February 4, for her morning run on the aforementioned trails - and hasn't been seen since. 

Watch: The latest updates on Samantha Murphy's disappearance. Post continues after video.

Video via 9 News Australia.

As a fellow Ballarat woman, one lives within the search area and also runs along the nearby bush trails, there is a palpable sense of unease. 

While I can't begin to imagine what Sam's family, especially her three children, are going through, it would also be disingenuous to ignore the fear and uncertainty being experienced by many locals, especially women, who live and exercise in these areas.


As a woman who before Sam's disappearance had walked and run within the bush trails without second thought or concern for my safety, that sense of freedom is now gone. 

As of Monday, when two police officers rang my doorbell, asking my husband and me if we had seen Samantha while holding the image now familiar to most Australians, my daily walking or running route changed. No longer did I run along the bush section, the section which had been one of my favourites. Instead, I stuck to footpaths that ran parallel to the main roads. 

I did this because my daughter told me to.

I did this because my husband told me to.

And I did this because I am no longer confident about running or walking anywhere else.

And I am not the only one. 

While on one of my walks late last week, I was stopped by two women I knew. They told me that they had been apprehensive to walk at all since Sam had disappeared and were only now doing so because it was on a public route and they were together. 

Several other women I have spoken to, some who I know and others who I don't, have also shared similar sentiments.

Some, like me, have changed their usual routes, some are only walking in pairs or groups, some with their partners, others only during the day and not dawn or dusk. Others are choosing not to venture out at all.

For many, it's the sense of unknowing that generates this fear. Because without answers about what happened to Sam, we just don't know whether there is something or someone to be afraid of. 


And this is the unfortunate reality. We still don't know. It's been over a week since Sam disappeared on her morning run and we are no closer to knowing what has happened to her.

With speculation mounting on social media, amongst the public and in the media, fuel is being added to this fire of fear daily, and it's hard not to be burnt by its flames.

While some of the speculation is downright salacious, it's very natural for us locals to have serious concerns about what might have happened.

Because so many of us Ballarat women relate to Sam. We live in the same regional city where everyone knows everyone, we are partners and mothers, and we are business owners. We are runners and walkers and we want to feel safe; we deserve to feel safe and so did Sam.

Amongst the apprehension though, a silver lining has appeared – the formation of allies - of local women (and men), supporting each other in a time of uncertainty – whether it's through a simple nod or smile while pounding the pavement, or the offer to buddy up on a run.

While this is not (nor should it be) a replacement for our right to safety, it still shows the incredible nature of our community who above all else, want nothing more than to support one another and to find answers for Samantha's family.

Feature image: Victoria Police/Supplied.