JANINE HENDRY. When women fight back. How the women’s March4Justice changed the political landscape in AustraliaMay 25, 2022
On March 15 2021 as I stood before the podium at the March4Justice in Canberra waiting to speak to the 10,000 women and their allies standing on the lawns of Parliament House; I had a moment to reflect on how it was that we, the women of Australia had reached this point.
As I stood there, I reflected that around Australia at the same moment in time over 110,000 women and their allies were also marching for justice.
They had come to march in protest at the appalling rates of gendered violence in this country, they were protesting the Government’s lack of response to the sexual assaults that were occurring in our Parliament House, and they were marching to highlight the inequality that had been silently rising under the LNP Government.
Women were angry.
March 4 Justice emerged out of this anger, the anger of the women of Australia. At the time of the march, March 4 Justice was just 2 weeks old.
Two weeks prior to the march my own anger had tipped over. I had been reading the news and watching what can best be described as the appalling manner of the handling of the Brittany Higgins allegations, and the move to cast this as a political problem.
I had listened to a very courageous Higgins stand up and tell her story, publicly.
I had read earlier the story of the Deputy Prime Minister, who was in a clandestine relationship with a staffer who had become pregnant, he sought to deny paternity.
Alongside this, the then Attorney General, had historic rape claims moved against him. The alleged victim in this case had committed suicide. It was a devastating story.
These were the men who headed our government.
Embedded in these stories the young Chanel Contos had stood up to talk about the sexual experiences of young women across Australia. These stories broke my heart. As I went down the rabbit hole of the stories of these young women’s sexual experiences a pattern emerged.
It was a pattern of abuse of power, a pattern of misogyny and a pattern that pushed women further and further away from equality.
I looked at my then 15-year-old son. I knew that in a couple of years I would be launching him into the world as a fully-fledged adult, his role models would be these very same men.
Australia has a problem; a huge problem around gendered violence and I knew at that moment in time on a warm Sunday morning in February as I looked at my son that something had to be done, for him and for the women of Australia. Something had to change.
My anger rose.
I sent out a tweet, I asked the women of Australia to join me and circle Parliament House. I wanted us to turn our backs on the men who sought to treat women as political problems, I wanted them to know that it was no longer ok, that change was happening.
After the tweet, women contacted me in droves, there was palpable anger, they wrote to me of unmentionable assaults, of blatant discrimination and of untold abuse.
I set up a Facebook group, a Twitter group and sent out an invitation for an open zoom.
Within 48 hours there were 28,000 people in the Facebook group.
March 4 Justice was born. It was a movement founded by the women of Australia. Women who were no longer prepared to sit by and watch the terrible treatment that was being inflicted out to them. Women were preparing to stand up and to have their voices heard.
The marches themselves were organised and managed by groups of women who had never met before. A core team, just four of us, oversaw the organisation of the marches. We set up a structure and established teams in social media, logistics, website, technology, publicity, fundraising, guest speakers and governance. The women working in these teams did so independently and with singular focus. We also put in place teams to run each of the state-based events, indeed on the date of the march there were over 40 marches across Australia as well as in New York and London.
During these two weeks we worked 20 hours a day, we zoomed up to a dozen times a day. Fuelled by the anger of the Australian women we pushed on.
As we now know the March 4 Justice was a pivotal moment in Australian history, it has brought together the frustrations and anger of the women of Australia which we have now seen meted out at the ballot box.
The women’s March 4 Justice has been formalised and is now a registered charity. It has a Board of Directors and an exceptionally experienced and diverse Advisory Board.
The Women’s March 4 Justice Ltd. was founded by the very women who gathered to create the March 4 Justice. These are the women who organised events, moderated our social media, developed, and executed a PR campaign that saw 9500 pieces of media worldwide about the Women’s March 4 justice.
Our objectives were always clear. We sought to change the narrative around gendered violence in Australia and we sought to support the structural and systemic changes needed to drive equality.
These objectives were in part achieved in Saturday’s election. The voices of the women of Australia were loud and unforgiving. We will no longer tolerate a government that supports inequality and promotes misogyny. March 4 Justice will continue to amplify the voices of all women and to call out the abusers of women and March 4 Justice will not stop doing this, regardless of the Government holding power, until we have real and measurable equality in Australia.
March 4 Justice remains an important institution in Australia, an institution founded by the women of Australia.