Today’s Women’s March 4 Justice protests kicked off across the country at midday, with scores of women and male and non-binary allies calling for widespread change in federal parliament.
The protests follow the emergence of high-profile allegations of rape, one against a senior parliamentary staffer by now-former staffer Brittany Higgins, and a second historical allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter.
The first photos from the 36 protests Australia-wide have started to appear via Twitter, with shots of crowds in Newcastle and Sydney. Tens of thousands of people are expected to march today.
I have waited twenty years to see this moment. #March4Justice— Patricia Karvelas (@PatsKarvelas) March 15, 2021
At the same time, a petition with over 93,000 signatures is due to be delivered by survivors and allies to Parliament House in Canberra, calling for politicians to address structural issues around sexism, misogyny and equality in the parliamentary workplace culture and in the broader community.
The petition’s explicit demands include independent investigations into cases of gendered violence in parliament, the implementation of recommendations from a 2020 inquiry into sexual harassment in Aussie workplaces, an increase in public funding for gendered violence prevention, and the enactment of a federal Gender Equality Act.
Survivor Brittany Higgins attended and spoke at the Canberra protest, and Australian Of The Year and child sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame spoke in Hobart. Beloved Kiwi actor Sam Neill was also spotted in Sydney, where over 1500 people are believed to have attended.
Brittany Higgins is attending the parliament house rally.— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) March 15, 2021
She's in suffragette white.
She is by no means the only survivor in that crowd of thousands, but she is one who is instantly recognisable – it is a very, very brave act.
This is easily the biggest protest I have ever seen in Canberra— Max Black ⚫️ (@maxblackhole) March 15, 2021
The entire front lawn is full of protestors with thousands more pouring in from all directions, including hundreds of public servants
It is an impressive sight to see#March4Justice pic.twitter.com/MqpeMxKHSd
Federation mall, the long stretch of grass in front of parliament, is now pretty much full. Crowds now listening to speakers and the welcome to Ngunnawal country. So many here that the women at the back can't hear the speakers. #March4Justice @MatildaBoseley pic.twitter.com/4FbYNe4TLI— Christopher Knaus (@knausc) March 15, 2021
More than 5000 people are believed to have attended the Melbourne protest, with large crowds also photographed in Adelaide, Brisbane and Newcastle.
There were also strong turnouts in regional centres, like Coffs Harbour, Nowra, Bega, Armidale and Wagga Wagga.
In Parliament House this morning, organiser Janine Hendry, confronted Deputy PM Michael McCormack in Parliament House.
She asked that the government promise to address the issues around the treatment of women in government.
“I’ve always made those commitments, I’ve always made sure that any workplace I’ve been in and certainly my home is a very safe and secure pace for any women who happens to be in that environment,” replied McCormack, as 9 News reported. “I’m certain that we’ll absolutely look at it.”
Hendry wasn’t interested in any minced words. “When you tell me you’re willing to look at it, I’m going to tell you I want some action and the women of Australia want some action,” she said.
“We’re drawing a line in the sand right here,” she added. “You’ve been looking at this for years, I’m sorry, but it’s time and it’s time now. We don’t want any more reports, we want change.”
According to Hendry, the Prime Minister’s Office invited a small delegation from the Women’s March 4 Justice to meet Scott Morrison on Sunday.
“What we would like to know is why the PM can’t come out to meet us and talk directly?” she wrote on Twitter. “More than 100,000 women and allies from every walk of life are standing up to speak. How could meeting with just three women be enough?”
The offer was officially declined earlier today, with Hendry writing on Twitter, “We have already come to the front door, now it’s up tot he Government to cross the threshold and come to us. We will not be meeting behind closed doors.”