Thousands of people descended on the lawns of parliament house on Monday for the #March4Justice.
Women, men and children gathered on the lawns in the glaring sun, dressed in black and equipped with signs displaying messages of anger, frustration and hope for change for women in Australia.
Those in attendance were privileged enough to hear from Brittany Higgins, who bravely shared her own story of alleged rape, explaining why it’s well past time for change.
Journalist Lisa Wilkinson introduced Higgins, telling the crowd: “Neither of us were shocked when behind the scenes Brittany was branded a lying cow.”
“Brittany Higgins will not be silenced,” Wilkinson said.
“What has left me in awe is the way this country has responded to this story. Finally we are having the conversations we have been aching to have for far too long.”
Higgins’ speech was met with awed silence from the crowd, everyone was hanging on to each word she spoke.
“I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately the media team actively undermined and discredited my loved ones,” she said.
“I decided to resign and share my story, because I felt it was the only thing that I could do to say that I didn’t co-sign this behaviour. That I don’t believe what happened was right. That I don’t believe a brochure is adequate support. That I don’t believe people should be isolated, intimidated and ignored after traumatic incidents inside the workplace.
“I came forward with my story to hopefully protect other women.
“By staying silent, I felt like it would have made me complicit, and if something of this nature had ever happened again, my ongoing silence would have inadvertently said to those people in charge that you can treat people in this way and it’s OK. I want to be clear: it’s not.
“So I have spoken out with what little I have to say: this isn’t OK.”
Higgins’ speech ended with the crowd chanting “Thank you Brittany” and “We believe Brittany”.
Earlier in the day, Saxon Mullins addressed the crowd, talking about the need for men to stand up against the culture of misogyny.
“1 in 5 women have been affected by sexual violence. Men where do you think these perpetrators are hiding?” she said.
“You don’t just know them. You helped them. You helped create a culture of misogyny.”
“We are up against government that doesn’t care about its people. Based on their history I have the familiar feeling they won’t do anything without a fight. A fight we are ready for.”
Aminata Conteh-Biger, CEO and Founder of The Aminata Maternal Foundation, spoke about her experience of growing up in war torn Sierra Leone and how she came to Australia as a refugee, believing it was the safest place in the world to be a woman.
“If the politicians don’t believe a white woman. What is the hope for black women. I stand here for women of colour,” she told the crowd.
“We are not your property to be touched. Keep your hands off. We demand respect. Enough is enough. No more.”
The rally concluded when Dr Anita Hutchinson and Dr Kate Ahmad, from Doctors Against Violence Towards Women, and March4Justice organiser Janine Hendry, presented a petition of 94,000 signatures to Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and the Greens’ Larrisa Waters, outlining the specific requests of protestors.