Thousands of people took to the streets on Monday to voice their anger about the sexual violence faced every day by women in Australia and the failings of the Government to take meaningful action against it.
The #March4Justice movement began a little over two weeks ago with a tweet from organiser Janine Hendry but it quickly evolved into a rallying cry for those who are simply fed up.
So, what did we learn from the Australia-wide rallies?
#1 Women have had enough
More than a hashtag, #EnoughisEnough was the overwhelming sentiment from rally participants.
Enough gendered violence. Enough inequality. Enough apathy from our leaders.
Wil Stracke, Assistant Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council summed up the shared rage felt by many women while addressing the Melbourne rally.
“We are angry and we are hurting,” she told the crowd.
“It’s not just that we are not safe. It’s not just that we are not respected. We are still not equal.
“We are right to be angry.”
#2 The system is broken
When former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins shared her account of sexual assault in the workplace, she shone a much-needed light on the systematic failings to protect victims in Australia.
She did so again while speaking at the Canberra #March4Justice rally saying, “We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institutions.”
ACTU President Michele O’Neil backed Ms Higgin’s call for systematic change, telling the Canberra crowds, “What’s needed is women having swift access to justice by making freedom from sexual harassment a workplace right, with a quick, easy complaint process, to change health and safety laws so that employers have an obligation to prevent sexual harassment and tackle its underlying causes.”
#3 The Morrison Government doesn’t get it
For many rally participants, it was the apathy and inaction of the Morrison Government that drew them to protest.
#March4Justice was an opportunity for the PM to address these criticisms with the Australian public directly, instead he was a no-show.
ACTU President Michele O’Neil thinks this isn’t good enough, telling the Today Show, “The Prime Minister should come out here. He should face the women of Australia. He should be answerable for the actions he’s taken but also, importantly, for what he hasn’t done, because he hasn’t done enough.”
From his blundering comments about Brittany Higgin’s allegations to his outrageous response to #March4Justice during Monday’s Parliamentary Question Time, it is clear Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Government just don’t get it.
#4 It’s time for real change
In Brittany Higgin’s powerful speech at the Canberra rally, she called for real action on gendered violence.
“We’ve all learned over the past few weeks just how common gendered violence is in this country,” she said.
“It’s time our leaders on both sides of politics stop avoiding the public and side-stepping accountability. It’s time we actually address the problem.”
In March 2020, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner released a ground-breaking report, ‘Respect@work’, which found that our laws are failing to keep workers safe and made 55 practical recommendations for reform.
Frustratingly, the Government has been sitting on these actionable ways to address the problem of gendered violence in the workplace for over a year but still hasn’t taken meaningful steps to protect women.
In their petition presented to the Government on Monday, #March4Justice has called on the Government to fully implement all 55 recommendations, alongside 3 more actions including full independent investigations into all cases of gendered violence and timely referrals to appropriate authorities.
#5 This is just the beginning
“Change is coming, it’s coming like a tsunami.”
This was the message from ACTU Secretary Sally McManus, and it was one echoed around the 40+ #March4Justice events that took place across Australia.
Grace Tame, Australian of the Year and sexual abuse survivor told protestors in Hobart, “One of these barriers to progress is silence. The start of the solution is quite simple — making noise.”
For former Victorian Greens MP Huong Truong, the next step is clear, telling Melbourne crowds, “Vote ’em out. Replace them and do not flinch.
“Double down. Stand witness. Let’s give them hell.”
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