In Conversation with Women’s March Sydney
In the wake of the #WomensWave Global Anniversary our chapters from around the world are sharing with us powerful experiences from their events and marches. The following is an article by Jamie Evans, Chapter Ambassador for Women’s March Sydney, who describes how the community gathered and rallied for their mission “to harness the power of everyone present to change the culture of violence against women for the next generation”.
Australia’s culture of violence against women is a crisis. It is rooted in a widespread cultural acceptance that the values, roles, and rights of women are lesser than those of men. It is time to change this culture so that the next generation of women can live their lives to their fullest potential; free from intimidation, harassment, and violence. Women have the right to be safe, claim their space, be respected and have their voices heard.
Wiradjuri woman and community worker Aunty Norma (Board member of the Congress of Australia’s First Nations People’s; the NSW Board of Red Cross, the Aboriginal Advisory panel of the City of Sydney Council and the Aboriginal advisory panel of University of Technology, Sydney) kicked off our event by welcoming us to traditional Aboriginal land and speaking about Indigenous communities and the wrongs that have been and continue to be done to them in Australia, saying “If we don’t stand up against it, if we don’t fight for our sisters, our mothers, our grandmothers who are being constantly abused and traumatised. Within our Aboriginal communities with our stolen generation, we talk about generational trauma, it lives on unless we stop it!”.
Activist Jane Brock, from Immigrant Women’s Speakout, spoke about the need to remember the additional barriers refugee and migrant women face when accessing safety and justice. Interdisciplinary artist Bhenji Ra spoke on the rise of transgender violence alongside the rise of the trans communities visibility, saying “trans women have always been here. We WILL remain.”
Author Bri Lee gave a stirring and emotional speech about the bravery of survivors and the way that Australia’s laws need to change to better protect victims, saying “it’s so hard to keep an olive branch in the palm of your hand when you need your keys between your fingers’’, “to my fellow survivors, that shame is not yours” and “Never underestimate the change you can make when you channel your anger and strategize how you move forward.”
Editor of @junkeedotcom, host of That Startup Show and proud Wiradjuri woman Rae Johnston began by acknowledging that “it is due to Australia’s defamation laws that I cannot tell you my #MeToo stories” and gave a passionate closing speech on the need for women to lift one another up, saying “Change is happening because we are refusing to do what is expected of us. We are refusing to stay silent and maintain the status quo. We are refusing to see each other as competition, and instead, we are lifting each other up, and the next generation along with it. We are talking about the women that blazed the trails we walk on today, and we are becoming mentors.”
Our MC for the event, author and host of the series Is Australia Sexist? Yumi Stynes rallied the crowd to march with a rousing call to keep fighting, saying “I march because together we are powerful. We are formidable!”
Our amazing crowd of around 5,000 people marched through the streets of Sydney, chanting for “safe streets now”. At our #WomensWave Festival, attendees were able to meet with representatives from some of our partner organisations including Domestic Violence NSW, NSW Women’s Alliance, femPower, Grandmother’s Against Detention of Refugees and Amnesty International. Petitions were signed, volunteers were recruited and new connections were made as our energised crowd found more ways to be involved and continue fighting for women’s rights.
The crowd was treated to performances from dance troupe Des Fleurs, artists Malaika Green and Body Type and a speech from the NSW Women’s Alliance explaining their Safe State initiative of recommendations for the NSW to adopt to address the crisis of family and domestic violence, as well as food trucks and a picnic area in the gorgeous Sydney summer.
We were thrilled to grow our crowd from last year and have so many wonderful people in attendance, including Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Labor Shadow Minister for Environment, Heritage, Trade, Tourism & Major Events Penny Sharpe and Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Jenny Aitchison. We have committed to endorsing the Safe State initiative and their 49 recommendations for change and were delighted by the amount of people they got to endorse the campaign at the march. We also raised a significant portion of funds for Lou’s Place, a local refuge shelter for women experiencing violence or in crisis.