30 April 2024

Did Albo's gender violence rally response just prove a point?

| Hayley Nicholls
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protestors against gendered violence outside Parliament House on Sunday, 28 April 2024

Thousands rallied across the country on the weekend to protest against violence against women. Photos: Hayley Nicholls.

The stoush between the Prime Minister and the organiser of Canberra’s rally against gender violence, not-for-profit advocacy organisation What Were You Wearing founder Sarah Williams, was all a bit familiar.

A little too ironic, to quote one prominent feminist voice of my generation. It brings to mind the familiar dynamic of most arguments between men and women.

Long-suffering woman attempts to air grievances in order to achieve resolution. Man feels attacked. Man gets defensive and deploys a few tried and tested techniques to get out of the situation.

First, be dismissive.

In multiple states, it was reported that MPs and other government officials left swiftly after (or even halfway through) the initial address. They came, they walked with the people, and they left before they were forced to listen and respond in a more meaningful way.

After his address, our Prime Minister made a swift exit – and with him went the media.

Then, a touch of gaslighting.

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The dispute between the Prime Minister and Sarah Williams is around whether the PM and government ministers attending the rally could speak.

Standing on the side, Mr Albanese asked: “Do you want me to speak or not? I’m the prime minister.”

When he took the microphone, he told the crowd he’d been asked not to speak, prompting Ms Williams to start weeping as she cried out that his comment was “a flat-out lie”.

When asked on a morning talk show for his response to Sarah Williams’ statement, the Prime Minister simply acknowledged it was an “emotional” day (and managed to effectively dismiss her accusation under that banner) and that he was “focused on the issue”.

Finally, shift the blame.

The Prime Minister opened his response by reminding the crowd that “Society, and Australia, must do better”.

He reminded attendees: “We have to change culture. This isn’t something that requires a one-off action. This is something that requires concerted action from all levels of government, from the media, from all levels of society, to change culture.”

While not necessarily shirking responsibility, there was a definite air of disbursing and redirecting the outrage.

protestors against gendered violence outside Parliament House on Sunday, 28 April 2024

Gendered violence takes many forms; all of them are horrific in their own way.

I respect Anthony Albanese for showing up and facing a frustrated crowd who were demanding answers. Unfortunately, he did not bring them. Then he left with the media pack and some great content for socials.

Inadvertently though, it feels like Albo somewhat helped prove part of our point. Women need to be heard to achieve change. But traditionally, we are dismissed, belittled, lied to (and about), avoided and embarrassed. This treatment comes from our abusers, the police, the legal system, the media and, evidently, the government.

And if this is an argument that mirrors those being had behind closed doors across Australia, the final technique employed to silence us would be violence. I suppose this is what Scott Morrison alluded to when he gently reminded protestors that they were lucky not to be met with bullets.

After the leaders of our country and the major media left, we heard the personal accounts of multiple victim survivors, as well as the practical requests for support from professionals working in the field of domestic and family violence.

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As put by Hannah Ferguson from Cheek Media as she addressed the Sydney rally with an inspiring warcry: “New Media in this country and Advocacy in this country will end Legacy Media that refuses to hear our voices and report accurately.”

Gendered violence takes many forms; all of them are horrific in their own way. Personally, the stories that boggle my mind most usually include women who took all the ‘right’ steps to keep themselves safe. However, the systems in place currently do little to nothing to keep these women from harm.

A man can have an evidential track record for violence, openly tell a woman he intends to kill her and there is practically no effective protection available for her. We have seen how this often ends. There a glaringly huge holes in our systems.

protestors against gendered violence outside Parliament House on Sunday, 28 April 2024

Gendered violence is a huge societal issue that starts small.

Thirty-two women in this country have died at the hands of men this year, and 27 per cent of women in this country have experienced violence or abuse at the hands of a partner.

These are big stats. However, another key point raised on signs across Australia this weekend was that gendered violence is a huge societal issue that starts small. If we hear someone make a joke that is rooted in the casual disdain for women, we need to call it out.

These jokes are tired and unfunny, but they’re also seeds that grow a socially acceptable disregard for the safety of women. For my part, I’m going to stop quietly rolling my eyes at these tired “jokes” and start telling people to evolve.

One final, personal observation was made at Sunday’s rally outside Parliament House. Before the rally was called to a close, a minute’s silence was held for the 32 women who have been killed by men this year in Australia.

From where I stood, I watched a hush fall over this crowd of impassioned people who came here to be so loud. In the background, I watched the uniformed officers standing between us and Parliament House. Clearly unaware of what was going on at the microphone, they continued to chatter, joking and gesticulating enthusiastically.

It was so off-putting and so poignant. They were there to provide protection. Protection to the men of Parliament House, not the women sitting in front of it. Or the women lost, whose names were being read.

It is not the officers’ fault, of course. They were too far away to hear what was going on, and ultimately, their orders came from elsewhere.

Hayley Nicholls is a Canberra native and business owner, and has worked with not-for-profit and peak organisations. She is concerned about homelessness, gender equality and animal welfare.

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One can’t help wonder if the intimate partner and spousal violence stats would be less one-sided if they included all the poisonings. Women usually eschew violence, but that does not mean they don’t seek to accomplish the same ends by other means. Less violent, or just less likely to be caught? It might be not a coincidence that the longevity gap between men and women has been narrowing as divorces become easier to obtain.

The recent crime of a 17 year old girl who killed her 10 year old sister is being treated as a DV case

Albo has made a huge mistake standing up as the face of Governments on this issue, there is NO EASY answer and we have demonstrations, marches, Government policy and still no change. The last thing he should have done is make himself the lightening rod on this issue – would be directing that to the State Premiers.

“But traditionally, we are dismissed, belittled, lied to (and about), avoided and embarrassed.”

This was never unique to a single gender. Both genders battle problems of being relevant.
However only a small subset of individuals take all the stuff they either don’t understand or doesn’t suit them and call it discrimination.

Albo seemed fairly geniune at the speech from the footage. Everyone has the right to speak at a public event.
Albo would be pro-gender debate. He needs it to overshadow the cost of living is at an all time high.

What do most domestic violence cases have in common? Drugs. Its a real pitty we are soft on drugs.

One of the main drivers for bail and other freedoms for allerged purperatators is the notion of innocence until proven guilty. If we locked up everyone that was ever charged with a crime, there would be many more unfounded allergations

HiddenDragon7:57 pm 30 Apr 24

It probably proved a number of points, but the point most relevant to achieving worthwhile change and progress is probably that our zero sum game political system, and the sorts of people who typically make it to the top of that system, rarely, if ever, admit fault and are always instinctively looking to the main political game and the opportunity to utilise and/or weaponise any issue in that game.

Labor certainly did that – quite ruthlessly, in fact – with gender issues when they were in opposition, but now they are in government, they are discovering that it’s not so easy to play their political games while also looking for responses to very difficult issues.

We’ll see what comes out of tomorrow’s national cabinet, and out of next month’s federal budget, but the best hope is probably that Sunday’s events, and what followed, will prompt the PM to put the more base political instincts on the back burner and let the better angels prevail.

Wow, way to spin the story Hayley. Albo was dammed if he did and dammed if he didn’t!

He could have just listened and stayed until the end.

Margaret Freemantle11:45 pm 03 May 24

Exactly. Our PM walked with the crowd, no security, and by choice . He was bullied by the organiser and her lack of respect did nothing for the cause.

It’s very sad to hear the author of the piece put her own personal biases in the place of what could have been a good article pointing out some of the facts of violence against women. Unfortunately carrying on about this as a “stoush” (which it wasn’t) serves to diminish the rally itself and the work that needs to be done in this area, a fact which was acknowledged by the PM. So, just to set the record straight as I and my family were close to the speakers’ podium and witnessed what actually happened.
The PM and other Ministers (Katy Gallagher, Amanda Rishworth) and MPs (Alicia Payne), attended the march and marched with the crowd, which was around 5,000. When we reached Parliament House to listen to speakers they (PM et al) were standing with others in the crowd to listen. The account of the first speaker, who had been instrumental in setting up the rally, was compelling. Following her account, she outlined the demands of the group as to what they considered needed to be done to stem the flow of violence. Nothing wrong with that and it often happens at rallies. However they then called out the politicians attending the rally to come to the front of the group and do a “thumbs-up” or “thumbs down” thing to the list of demands. This was where things became unstuck. Obviously the PM and Ministers and other MPs (including David Pocock and at least one Greens’ representative) couldn’t do that as it’s not the way our Parliamentary system works. It’s not a reality TV show where we are voting options in or out of the House.
I’m surprised that the author of this piece didn’t include this fact in her article. There were then calls for the PM to step up, which he did. Sorry Ms Nicholls but he wasn’t “mansplaining” anything, he was simply explaining to the crowd that his office had previously been in contact with the organisers to ask if they wanted a Government speaker or if they wanted them to just be there. The PM made it clear that they respected the decision of the organisers for the politicians to just attend and not speak. However as the crowd wanted the PM to speak he then gave a very reasonable off-the-cuff speech which was well received by the audience – another fact you have chosen to ignore. He was not “blame-shifting”. He was quite clearly outlining what parts of the response need to come from governments. (You seemed to have conveniently missed that out too.)
Also, your trying to bring in the presence of security workers at the event is pretty low really and saying that they were to provide security to “the men of Parliament House” when they are, in fact, there to provide security to the men and women of Parliament House is simply not true and you probably know this. You certainly nailed your colours to the mast with the statement about Scott Morrison “gently reminding” women that they were lucky not to have their protests met with bullets. It’s sad that you’ve tried to turn a rally that was largely successful and will have significant follow-up from Government, into a party political piece.

Hayley Nicholls5:47 pm 30 Apr 24

Although some high level stats were included, largely I felt we were all fairly familiar with these from mainstream media. This is also an opinion piece – where personal biases are probably a little unavoidable.

I do appreciate that many people feel by placing a focus on this ‘incident’ we detract from the important issue, and I agree that division serves no one.

However, given we are speaking about the importance of changing societal attitudes and calling out poor behaviour towards women, I think it’s appropriate to discuss.

I must say – I can’t say his speech felt “well received”. Certainly where I was sitting there was a lot of angry heckling (not from me!). I did mention I respect the PM for showing up and facing such frustration.

Some preamble *including a play-by-play of the ‘thumbs up or thumbs down’ demands) was cut simply due to word limits. Agree it was always unlikely these demands would be committed to on the spot. However, they also really weren’t addressed. Other than the PM mentioning that the term ‘National Emergency’ is reserved for natural disasters in order to unlock short term funding, which is not what is needed in this case.

It’s good to hear our leaders agree this is a ‘National Crisis’ and a priority. I think many of us are just desperate to see more tangible and long-reaching change.

How have you turned a point that is critical of Scott Morrison into a point that you think is somehow evidence that the article is politically partisan against the government?

Suggest you read the article again, there’s nothing remotely contained in it that could be considered as you’ve described.

Paul Bradstreet11:21 pm 15 May 24

I, too, was at the march and am saddened by your response. Three issues concerned me. First, the organiser lost a strongly supportive crowd by her belligerent and rude behaviour towards the prime minister. About half, including me, left straight after the PM spoke. Second, the PM failed to seize the moment with a ‘Port Arthur’ style speech, although you can hardly blame him given the treatment he got . And, third,

I suppose the recent tragic case of a mercy killing of a 92 year old by her 93 year old husband, who then tried to end his own life, will go down as just another gendered violence statistic, irrespective of the desperate, sad and personal circumstances. Access to voluntary euthanasia is needed.

That’s a terrible example to use. Whilst the circumstances are tragic she did not consent to her death. If you read the judgement he just took it upon himself to end her life.

While the problem is real & more changes are needed it should be pointed out that rates of gendered homicide are about half of what they were in the 1980’s.

We have more refuges, AVO’s and police now take these matters more seriously.
Also men make up more than 10% of the victims of domestic violence.

I believe the figure is actually 40%, franky22. Moreover, up until the age of 14 a child is more likely to suffer a serious assault-injury from its mother than from its natural father. Of course, abortions don’t count, since we all know that there is nothing violent about an abortion and so it’s OK.

This is all politics. They don’t care about women. They’re just using them to get more and more power. It’s been true ever since women’s rights became a thing in the 1880s/1900s. It was never grassroots, but funded by wealthy people with a political agenda.

That aside, and just looking at today, why, if women were precious, would women play second fiddle to men who want to use their bathrooms or prisons, or play their sports?

Or why would porn be so big, which is filled by mostly troubled women only there under duress and who experience the greatest humiliations, only for the far reaching influences of porn to spill over into so many bedrooms where women are degraded even further.

Or promiscuity, where women are constantly subjected to loveless sex and continuously dumped once they’ve served their purpose – the research showing how bad this is for mental and emotional health.

Or forced to not only try and keep a family but do so while having a full time job and being in debt.

Or encouraged to take the pill so as to be something other than who they are naturally, all the while being gaslit into thinking they’re being themselves.

And then when women are finally seen as dirt, on account of the low estate I’ve outlined above, the media and politicians make out they care, and get shown for who they are within seconds (re Albanese).

Feminism is the exact opposite of what it purports to be, and the low regard with which women are held is proof of this.

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