Women's March 4 Justice: Thousands across Australia protest against sexual violence

15 March 2021, 07:45 | Updated: 15 March 2021, 07:48

Protesters attend the Women's March 4 Justice Rally in Canberra
Protesters attend the Women's March 4 Justice Rally in Canberra. Picture: Getty

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Tens of thousands of people in Australia have taken to the streets demanding justice for women as the country's government reels from two rape allegations.

Protests took place in the country's capital Canberra and other cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart.

Outside Parliament House in Canberra, hundreds of activists wearing black carried placards with the slogans "Justice for Women" and "Men, Own Your Guilt".

READ MORE: Thousands gather outside New Scotland Yard to protest against policing of Sarah Everard vigil

Prime Minster Scott Morrison refused a demand by organisers that he address the crowd. He agreed to meet a delegation of protesters in his office, however a meeting did not take place.

"We have already come to the front door, now it's up to the government to cross the threshold and come to us," organiser Janine Hendry said.

Protesters take to the streets in Sydney
Protesters take to the streets in Sydney. Picture: PA

"We will not be meeting behind closed doors," she added.

Mr Morrison is standing by Attorney-General Christian Porter over an allegation that he raped a 16-year-old girl when he was aged 17 in 1988.

Porter denies the allegation, while his accuser took her own life last year after withdrawing a complaint to police.

Thousands march against sexual violence in Melbourne
Thousands march against sexual violence in Melbourne. Picture: PA

The rallies coincided with the first sitting of Parliament since the allegation against Mr Porter became public in early March.

Separately, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has been criticised for failing to adequately support a young staffer who alleged she was raped by a more senior colleague in the minister's office in Parliament House in 2019.

Brittany Higgins said she felt she had to make a choice between reporting her allegations to police or continuing her career.

Brittany Higgins speaks at the Canberra Women's March 4 Justice
Brittany Higgins speaks at the Canberra Women's March 4 Justice. Picture: Getty

She quit her government job in January and reported her allegation to police.

"I was raped inside Parliament House by a colleague, and for so long it felt like the people around me only cared because of where it happened or what it might mean for them," a tearful Ms Higgins told the Canberra crowd.

She added: "It was so confusing because these people were my idols. I had dedicated my life to them. They were my social network, my colleagues, and my family. And suddenly they treated me differently. I wasn't a person who had gone through a life-changing, traumatic event. I was a political problem."

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