dpa/GNA – Thousands of women and allies took to the streets across Australia on Sunday and Monday to protest gender discrimination and violence
The series of rallies – under the banner March4Justice – kicked off in Perth and Cairns on Sunday and continued in Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne, among other cities, on Monday.
Organizers of the rallies said they rejected an offer from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to meet behind closed doors.
“More than 100,000 women and allies from every walk of life are standing up to speak. How could meeting with just three women be enough?” Women’s March4Justice founder Janine Hendry tweeted following the request.
The protests come after an independent review into parliament’s workplace culture was triggered by the allegation by former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins that she was raped by a male colleague in 2019 at Parliament House while working for then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds.
Three other women have alleged they were assaulted by the same man since Higgins made her allegations public last month, according to the Australian news agency AAP.
Speaking in front of thousands at the Canberra rally, Higgins accused senior Australian politicians of dodging accountability.
“We’ve all learned over the past few weeks just how common gendered violence is in this country,” Higgins said.
“It’s time our leaders on both sides of politics stop avoiding the subject and side-stepping accountability. It’s time we actually address the problem.”
Higgins, who quit her job as a media adviser before going public with her allegations, will receive compensation from Reynolds, who made a defamation settlement after calling her a “lying cow.” According to media reports Higgins will donate the money to sexual abuse survivors counselling and support.
The cabinet minister has previously said the comment was not questioning the truthfulness of the allegations, but responding to suggestions she hadn’t offered enough support, according to reports.
“We fundamentally recognize the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institutions,” Higgins said.
“We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight.”
Morrison did not attend the protest, but about 15 coalition lawmakers went outside to hear the speeches, AAP reported.
On Monday, he blasted his defence minister for the “disgraceful slur” in his strongest comments yet, saying he was pleased the comment was withdrawn.
“Of course she should never have said it,” he told parliament.