The events that have unfolded since Brittany Higgins came forward about her alleged rape in Parliament House is a show of deeply embedded sexism of which Australian women are paying the price.
When Prime Minister Scott Morrison stepped forward to apologise, he dressed apathy as empathy and hoped we’d fall for it.
It’s a shame that our Prime Minister would rather weaponise tears and gaslight the nation before making his colleagues face the consequences of their alleged actions.
The Cabinet reshuffle did nothing to help the matter either. How can this problem be fixed by a Cabinet reshuffle when the Cabinet itself is part of the problem?
Whilst I do commend the Government for having the most women of any National Cabinet, I will say that there is a stark difference between having women sitting at the table and having a table for women.
The Cabinet we have now sees Minister for Social Services Anne Ruston as Minister for Women’s Safety.
Minister Ruston pushed legislation to continue the Cashless Debit Card, which the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) opposed strongly in their submission to the Senate Inquiry due to their concerns for women’s safety.
Michaelia Cash has been appointed Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister, replacing alleged sexual assault perpetrator Christian Porter. However, it wasn’t too long ago that Minister Cash was called out for her own attempted slut-shaming.
As Minister for Jobs in 2018, she was forced to retract a threat she made to name young female staffers in former Labor leader Bill Shorten’s office of which she said there were “rumours abound”.
Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Digital Economy June Hume has taken on the new position of Minister for Women’s Economic Security.
Minister Hume championed the recent plan which would have enabled domestic violence victims early access to their superannuation to assist them in escaping violence — however this was later culled due to fear for victim safety.
And regarding Minister for Women Marise Payne being referred to as the “Prime Minister for Women” — what a way for Mr Morrison to tell Australian women they are second-class citizens.
With a Government so out-of-touch with women, where does that leave Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women?
Strong Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum wurrung woman and social worker Sue-Anne Hunter took the stage at the Naarm/Melbourne March 4 Justice rally.
From a long line of strong Aboriginal women and being a single mother herself, Hunter felt she couldn’t look away at the unravelling situation.
“If I don’t make that stand like my mum did for me, where will my daughter be?” Hunter said.
“The reason I spoke was because of the rates of our women dying, of the rates of our women being incarcerated, the rates of our women being beaten.”
With scandal after scandal bursting the Canberra bubble, Hunter asks: where is the solidarity?
“These are supposed to be the leaders of the country, they couldn’t keep those women safe, and they can’t keep our women safe.”
“It’s women being left behind, and Aboriginal women in particular being left behind at every checkpoint,” she said.
“Where is the support in there fighting for our women? Where are the women backing one another?”
The current conversation is drowning out the voices of so many women.
WA Greens Senate candidate Dorinda Cox says white women are still firmly centred in these types of dialogues, to the detriment of other women.
“This is still a very heavily dominated narrative by mainstream, white-privileged, ableist, cis-gender women who haven’t been able to just create a space for people of diversity, whether it is First Nations women, women living with disability, young women, we just seem like we can’t do that,” Cox said.
“If you’re going to be an ally of ours, and you want to work with us as First Nations women, you need to kick a chair out and you need to come and let us have our seat at the table.”
“You need to make sure that you’re not just hearing our voices, that you’re listening. If you have that deep listening, you have an appreciation and respect for what we say as First Nations women, you have an obligation then to create action from that.
“If we can get this right for First Nations women who are, in this country, at the bottom of the social status ladder, we can get it right for all women.”
Gendered violence is intrinsic to the Australian woman’s experience because no woman in this nation, whether she is in her home, her work or Parliament House, is every truly free from the threat of violence.
We are battling against a culture of violence, but one that our Government has seen, acknowledged, perpetuated and not made true action to try and change.
As women we fight on the shoulders of those who came before and think of those that come after. Both Cox and Hunter have their own daughters which they look to for strength in the hard times.
If I ever have the privilege of a daughter, I hope she walks in a world that provides her a safety it deprived from us — and is led by a Government that holds a space for women, all women — every single last one of us.
By Rachael Knowles