Thousands of Australian women rallied in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne on Sunday to express their solidarity with the international Women’s March movement calling for reform of sexual assault laws and a change of culture.
As thousands marched across the United States and Europe, the Women’s March in Sydney saw around 1,000 people gather in Hyde Park. It was attended by a diverse range of women and some men, with younger women dominating the crowd.
The international protests in 2017 were sparked by the election of Donald Trump as US president, but since then other grassroots campaigns such as the #MeToo movement have broadened the concerns by exposing systemic harassment and discrimination against women. Instead of marching on the American consulate, as originally intended, the organisers in Sydney asked the crowd to join hands to ring Hyde Park in a show of solidarity.
One of the speakers, the founder of On Purpose Hub, Karen James, told the crowd that 2017 had been a watershed year in campaigning for systemic change.
But she said consistent action was needed to change entrenched attitudes: “We need to be unbroken all the time. We need to show up and take action all the time.”
Founder of the Sydney march, Kate Taylor, said joining hands was a symbol of solidarity and determination to keep forcing change.
“2017 was our generation’s floodgate moment. We refused to keep quiet. 2018 will be the year where we say we have weathered the backlash and emerged unbroken to say: we want a safer world.”
The Greens NSW MP Mehreen Faruqi, who was in of the crowd, said: “Women bear most of the brunt of racism, discrimination and inequality and it’s time to fight back and do it in solidarity.”
The Greens senator Lee Rhiannon described the atmosphere of the Sydney march under warm blue skies as “delightful”.
“Women are very upbeat and very inspired especially by what’s going on at marches in New York and Texas,” she said.
Some people had travelled to Sydney to take part. The Illawarra Knitting Nanna’s against Greed – Cherry Hardaker, Anne Dillon and Annie Marlow – said they were now turning their attention to Adani, coalmining and Donald Trump after winning their battle against coal-seam gas.
Marches in Melbourne and Brisbane also attracted hundreds of supporters. Those in Melbourne marched from Alexandra Gardens and formed a human chain across the banks of the Yarra.
“I think last year was that watershed moment of President Trump’s election,” Melbourne organiser Melissa Goffin said. “This is mainstream, this is everyone. It’s a new era of feminism.”
Hundreds also took part in Brisbane’s CBD carrying signs and chanting.
The Women’s March organisation started in Washington in response to Donald Trump’s presidential win. The group sought to turn protests into political action by encouraging women to run for office and exercise their right to vote and influence elections.
Tens of thousands turned out to March on Saturday in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and hundreds of other cities across the US and the world. Many women wore pink knit “pussy hats”, an enduring symbol of the Women’s March and the so-called “resistance” to Trump.