March for Justice

by Julie Macken, Research and Project Officer

On Monday the 15th of March 2021 over 100,000 women – and quite a few men – mobilised and marched across Australia under the banner Enough is Enough. I was lucky to be part of the rally outside Parliament House in Canberra. 

It was an extraordinary day of solidarity and compassion and rage. In Canberra the proceedings rightly began with a call out for listening and a reflection on Dadirri in the writings of Miriam – Rose Ungunmerr- Baumann. Dadirri is a Nauiyu word that means ‘quiet still awareness’ and ‘deep inner listening’. 

There was a lot of listening to stories over the following few hours. Stories of humiliation and fear and pain and sexual assault. Stories of being unheard and unseen as women and children across the nation were stalked, beaten and killed. A reminder that in our country a woman is murdered every week by the person who is meant to love her. There were stories of courage and solidarity and a reminder that we are stronger together.

I was proud of all the women who spoke. I was also gratified to see parliamentarians from the Greens, Labor and the Independents file out from that House. I was also delighted when a mate of mine literally bump into Barnaby Joyce and asked, “what are you doing here” he answered – or kind of mumbled – “It’s just right to be here.”

It was right just to be there. Of course the people that really should have been there, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Women, were not there. The Prime Minister was too busy and was not in the habit of doing that….so he didn’t. The Minister for Women, Marise Payne, suggested women could email her their concerns. Though she failed to explain why anyone would bother given she couldn’t manage to walk the ten metres outside the House to meet with the assembled women.

The solidarity and compassion was palpable and held for everyone who spoke and everyone who turned up. This is probably to expected. One in six women in Australia have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 years old. It’s fair to say that almost every women and girl in the march knew someone very well who made up that percentage.

But there was also rage at this rally. The rage of the powerless, of those who know they live outside the rule of law. There was rage directed at a Prime Minister who treated women like political opportunities or problems. At a man who had to ask his wife how to respond the allegation that a young woman had been raped just metres from his office. There was rage directed at all the men in power who could afford the luxury of umming and ahhing in their response. Women cannot afford that kind of ambivalence. Our daughters cannot afford that kind of cynicism.

Fortunately women know how to work together, we know how to make change happen and really fortunately, we know how to do it with out violence. As one of the posters said: Be thankful we only want equality and not pay back.