“Enough is enough”: thousands rally at Treasury Gardens for Melbourne’s March 4 Justice

18 March 2021

[content warning: gendered violence, sexual assault and deaths in custody]

Thousands of women gathered in Treasury Gardens on a Monday 15 March to protest against gendered violence and sexual assault in the workplace.

The rally was one of approximately forty similar events held across the country hosted by the March 4 Justice movement, a grassroots campaign founded by Melbourne entrepreneur and academic Janine Hendry.

Hendry tweeted that all the “extremely disgruntled” women should converge on Canberra and form a ring around Parliament House in silent protest of the government’s handling of the Brittney Higgins sexual assault allegation.

The tweet set in motion a movement which resonated with thousands of Australian women who turned out to protest the Australian Parliament’s ongoing abuse and discrimination of women in Australia. 

Speakers at the rally included Fiona Newson from the Bunurong Land Council, Wurundjeri woman and cultural consultant Sue-Anne Hunter, writer and political commentator Jamila Rizvi, assistant secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Wil Stracke, and youth worker and trans-rights advocate Korra Koperu.

In her speech to the crowd Sue-Anne Hunter highlighted the leadership of Indigenous women in resisting white male sexual violence and drew the connection between colonisation and patriarchal violence in Australia. 

“Aboriginal women have been resisting white male violence since the twenty-sixth of January 1788. Patriarchy, and the violence that goes hand-in-hand with it, came to these shores on a ship,” Hunter said.

“It is still white men who commit the crimes and it’s white men who judge their innocence. The allegations, cover-up and silence of gendered violence in Parliament is part of the same system of abuse and the same lack of legal-political consequence. Enough is enough”.

Hunter also reminded the crowd that there have been three Indigenous deaths in custody in the past week.

During the speeches, a plane circled carrying a sign that read: WOMEN VOTE TOO. Within the crowd, a white banner was unfurled with the names of every woman, man, and child killed at the hands of men since 2008.

There were roaming COVID Marshall handing out face masks and hand sanitiser and encouraging attendees to register their attendance via a QR code. Sexual assault support workers wearing orange arm bands were also present to provide support to the attendees.

Speakers at the rally declared the moment a turning point for Australian women. In the past month there have been several high profile stories of sexism and alleged sexual abuse both in Parliament and society more broadly.

In response to the nation-wide protests, Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised Australia’s  “vibrant liberal democracy” in parliament, stating that elsewhere in the world, protesters were being “met with bullets”. The comment was met with widespread criticism and outrage. 

Following the rally, activists are continuing to call on politicians and members of the community to take action against gendered violence and sexual assault.

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