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‘Australia, we need to talk’— Women’s rights activists push for long-awaited change

Prominent Australian women have come together to launch a new social media campaign in time for today’s International Women’s Day, putting pressure on the Morrison Government for reform on issues of violence and harassment.

With a federal election to be called in the next few weeks, a dozen female leaders led by former Australian of the Year Grace Tame released a video on Sunday addressed to Australians and demanding an end to injustice and inequality.

Tame was joined by former liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, youth activists Chanel Contos and Yasmin Pool, businesswomen Lucy Turnbull, Christine Holgate and Wendy McCarthy, former MP Julia Banks, union leader Michele O’Neil, advocates Larissa Behrendt and Georgie Dent, and paralympian Madison de Rozario.

The women put forward a clear message that they are striving to continue the conversation they started in 2021 — a historic year, that brought the #MeToo movement to the Australian Parliament and introduced us to many of the powerful voices in the campaign.

Released on the eve of International Women’s day, the video shows the high-powered group calling on the government to implement significant policies around the central recommendation of the Respect@Work report to protect women and children from violence, harassment and discrimination.

In addition, the group called for the provision of free and accessible early childhood education and care, the expansion of paid parental leave, and to act fully on the national plan for First Nations Women and Girls.

The new coalition seeks stronger and consistent child sexual assault laws, 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave, and legislative measures to address the gender pay gap. They are also insisting employers step up to prevent sexual harassment and bullying.

In a joint statement, the coalition members noted one in five Australian women would be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime, with worsening statistics for Indigenous women, women of colour, those with a disability or who are LGBTQI.

The one in five statistic is directly paralleled to Brittany Higgins in the video, who alleged she was raped by a colleague after hours in a Parliament House ministerial office in March 2019.

Since Higgins’ allegation, Scott Morrison and other political leaders have apologised for the “terrible things” that have occurred in parliament workplaces and acknowledged an abusive culture of violence and harassment built up over decades.

The video highlighted that women had been calling for change for decades, presenting the collective message that, “2021 wasn’t the first year that women in Australia were harassed or unsafe or ignored or disrespected”.

Holgate said the atmosphere was different now because more Australians had started to listen to those women of different ages, occupations and beliefs, who stood up and spoke out.

“The more people listened, the more familiar the story became,” Ms Holgate said in the video.

Last month, Ms Higgins told the National Press Club that in the year since she spoke out and the March4Justice was held, too little had changed and she feared that the potential of the movement would be lost over time.

Social Media Campain – Safety, Respect, Equity.


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