In mid December, I moved in with my boyfriend to an apartment in St Kilda – Melbourne’s (slightly inferior) answer to Bondi.
It’s where the city meets the beach. It’s young. It’s generously lined with bars and restaurants. It’s the unapologetic home of Melbourne’s Pride festival.
But when the sun falls beneath the sea, one of St Kilda’s most notorious strips, Grey Street, also becomes home to sex workers, pimps, and johns.
In fact, if you Google ‘street prostitution’, the Wikipedia page for Grey Street is the very first option – before the page for street prostitution itself.
Before moving into the area, I had never seen a sex worker before. Now we've been living here for over two months, I am familiar with the regulars, who stick to their respective corners. Every night they emerge around 10pm - handbags in tow - to claim their territory under the deep navy sky, and wait for the next car to roll up.
I see these same women shuffle their feet on the pavement, blank expressions painted across their faces, night after night. One who has brown regrowth peeking through her bright blonde hair claims the corner closest to my house. Sometimes, I wonder what I might say to her if we ever crossed paths at the local Coles, or the nearby petrol station.
I try so desperately to avoid assuming things about her - that she's enslaved, or unwilling - but still I find these thoughts creeping into my mind.
Because really, there are so many things I want to ask this woman, who works down the road from my house; who stands on that corner until the sun rises again, while I'm wrapped up tight in bed.
Are you happy? Are you safe? Are you okay?
I'm aware how condescending those questions might sound. I'm also aware that sex workers might read these words and feel sheer frustration at my apparent unease.
I don't mean to offend. But when I see the conditions these women work in, it's hard not to be concerned.
In July 2013, on the nearby Greeves Street, 40-year-old sex worker and mum Tracy Connelly was fatally stabbed in her home - a white Ford Econovan parked on the side of the road. Her mutilated body was discovered 12 hours later by her longterm partner, Tony Melissovas.
Two weeks before her murder, Tracy released balloons into the sky at the funeral of her close friend Blayne, a fellow street worker and mum to a little girl. Blayne had died of a heroin overdose.
According to volunteers at the St Kilda Gatehouse, an organisation offering support to street workers, Tracy Connelly was the one with "a getaway plan". She took every safety precaution possible. Yet, gripped by her and Tony's heroin addiction, every attempt to leave the streets saw her crawling back.
"She always knew where the car door handle was," one volunteer, Ruth Baker, told ABC last year. "That is what was so scary for the women, that it was Tracy who was killed."