Monday’s march event saw thousands of Australians band together to protest inequality and gendered exploitation.
“I speak to you out of necessity.”
Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal staff member, made a surprise appearance at a demonstration on Monday. She addressed a crowd of thousands gathered outside of Parliament House in Canberra for the event. This is the site at which Brittany Higgins described being sexually assaulted by a male colleague in 2019.
During this public address, Higgins explained that “the system is broken”,
“We are here today not because we want to be here but because we have to be here. We fundamentally recognise that the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place, and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institution.
“We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight… It’s time our leaders on both sides of politics stop avoiding the public and side-stepping accountability. It’s time we address the problem.”
Across the nation, protest placards requested an immediate call to action:
“Evil Thrives in Silence”
In Sydney, crowds of up to 10,000 gathered to demonstrate in the CBD. In Melbourne, a 30 metre list of victims, all women and children, was unfurled in front of the crowd.
Former MP Julia Banks also appeared to speak at the Melbourne event. Ms Banks said she was initially hesitant to speak up.
“What changed my mind to speak today was this, was all of you,” Ms Banks said. “Whether it’s safety in numbers I don’t know, but there’s a lot of numbers here.”
Australian of the Year Grace Tame made an impassioned speech in Hobart.
Call for Change
With over 40 registered rallies across the country, attendees called for a change in Federal parliament. They demanded a response and an end to the issue of sexism, misogyny, dangerous workplace cultures, and lack of equal representation within the political sphere.
This recent campaign for equality began 18 days ago in a tweet by academic Janine Hendry. This was followed by plans to organise a rally around Parliament House in Canberra. The idea grew outwards from there.
We’re moving along with plans for our protest against the woeful behaviour of the Govt response to women, equity and abuse – if you seek to be involved DM and I will add you to the list – we have also set up a FB group. pic.twitter.com/xOcu3ThN0C
— 💧Janine Hendry (@janine_hendry) February 28, 2021
A petition was handed over to the federal parliament, addressed to Scott Morrison. Four immediate actions were requested:
- Independent investigations into all cases of gendered violence
- Fully implementing the 55 recommendations in the Australian
Human rights Commission’s Respect@Work report go the National Inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.
- Lifting public funding for gendered violence prevention.
- A federal Gender Equality Act.
A spotlight has been thrust upon the subject of gender-focused violence.
The public marches, which took place in over 40 cities this week, demanded an official response to the long unaddressed problem of violence against women.
Brittany Higgins’s Allegations and the Response
Brittany Higgins told the March4Justice crowd in Canberra,
“I have read the news updates every day at 5:00am because I was waking up to new information about my own sexual assault through the media,”
“Details that were never disclosed to me by my employers, information that would have helped me with questions that have haunted me for years.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison publicly commented on the Higgins allegation, following the accusation in February. Morrison announced that a “review of workplace culture” is necessary going forward.
Scott Morrison sent a rejected invitation to the March4Justice rally organisers to meet privately in Parliament House. Morrison declined the invitation to attend the Canberra rally.
Former PM Julia Gillard, whose 2012 misogyny speech famously united Australian women Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, said of the event:
Thanks to all at #March4Justice today for raising your voices against misogyny & violence against women. I honour your passion for action & courage of those who have spoken out. I hope today’s decision makers hear #enoughisenough & it’s time for lasting change & real justice.
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) March 15, 2021
Global Violence Against Women
This recent series of gender-focused protests has come immediately after justice-seeking demonstrations in the United Kingdom.
The murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive has been the subject of public outrage recently in the UK. Allegedly kidnapped and subsequently murdered by metropolitan police officer Wayne Couzens, on March 3. A public protest took place on Saturday in Clapham Common, the South London park close to where Ms. Everard was seen last.
The Shadow Pandemic
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines, have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified.
“This is the Shadow Pandemic growing amidst the COVID-19 crisis and we need a global collective effort to stop it. As COVID-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. More needs to be done to prioritize addressing violence against women in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.”
UN Women provides up-to-date information and support to vital programmes to fight the Shadow Pandemic of violence against women during COVID-19.
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