Content warning: This article contains reference to sexual assault and violence. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

 

Organiser of the March 4 Justice protests Janine Hendry has verbally sparred with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack about the need for change at Parliament House Monday morning as thousands prepared to protest nationally.

Hendry asked the Deputy Prime Minister for accountability and action from the Government when it comes to women’s safety and sexual assault, to which McCormack said the Federal Government will “absolutely look at it”.

“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,” he said.

The academic, feminist and organiser of the many protests taking place across the country this week told McCormack the women of Australia want action, not promises of review.

“We’re drawing a line in the sand right here, right now,” she said.

“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 and we want change now.

“The women of Australia will thank you when we get these changes in place.”

A number of Indigenous organisations and politicians have joined forces with the movement, marching alongside protesters on Monday and highlighting the disproportionate effect sexual violence has on First Nations women.

Our Watch, leading non-profit for the prevention of violence against women in Australia, says three in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have experienced sexual or physical violence by a male intimate partner.

First Nations women are also 11 times more likely to die as a result of assault and 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to assault.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians and staunch feminist Linda Burney marched in Canberra on Monday alongside the Chair of Labor’s First Nations Caucus and Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy.

“An incredible turn out at the women’s #March4Justice this afternoon, and all over the country,” Burney wrote.

Aboriginal community-controlled family violence service Djirra also reported via Twitter they had received an uptick in donations thanks to the rallies happening across Australia.

“Shout out to the women who couldn’t make the #March4Justice today but showed support by donating to Djirra,” they wrote.

Others backing the movement also included staunch Bundjalung activist Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts, who said “injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere”.

The young Liberal staffer who catalysed the country’s recent surge in outcry, Brittany Higgins, spoke at the Canberra rally to an enormous crowd.

“I speak to you today out of necessity,” she said.

“We are all here today not because we want to be here, but because we have to be here. 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.

“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.”

The culture at Canberra’s Parliament House was thrust back into the spotlight in February after former staffer Higgins alleged she was raped in Federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office by a more senior male colleague in March 2019.

Then historical rape allegations against a sitting Cabinet Minister surfaced, causing Federal Attorney-General Porter to out himself at a press conference and respond to allegations he had raped a woman in 1988.

Thousands are now marching in protest across Australia for justice and change for women.

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By Hannah Cross