As footage of police cars being rammed, dogs being kicked, cars with children in them being trampled and journalists being attacked, infiltrated our screens yesterday, it’s safe to say that few of us felt comfortable about the current state of the nation.
Flocking to the streets of Melbourne’s CBD and banging down the doors of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy union (CFMEU) headquarters, a mix of far-right thugs, neo-nazis, unionists and construction workers gladly used force to convey their regressive perception of “freedom fighting”, protesting a two-week ban on the construction industry enforced by the Victorian government earlier in the week.
The shutdown was in response to widespread reluctance in the industry over vaccination mandates and fierce opposition to lockdowns, with Premier Daniel Andrews announcing on September 16, that by September 28, all workers must provide evidence of:
- having had at least one dose of the vaccination
- proof of vaccine appointment to receive a first dose by October 2
- or a medical exemption from an authorised medical practitioner.
Of course, with any rule mandated by the state there are always going to be fierce opponents. The CFMEU itself does not support the mandate of the vaccine for its workers, despite strongly urging those within the industry to get jabbed.
Protests are acceptable, but it’s the nature of these particular protests and the men at the core of them which are the problem.
The violence and brutality witnessed in Melbourne yesterday was reminiscent of the Cronulla Riots. Thousands of enraged, frenzied men gathering in packs, egging each other on. Each presentation of extreme force more jubilant than the last.
As a journalist, watching footage of colleagues in media being rounded up, choked and spat on left me with a feeling of deep, sickening fear. Police, trying to do their jobs and protect innocent bystanders were also threatened and attacked. Toxic masculinity on full display.
There is no excuse.
Yes, Australians are reaching the end of their tether. The past two years have been incredibly taxing with countless sectors gravely hit. We are all over COVID.
But do we see aged care workers swarming the streets en masse, kicking down doors and terrifying their community?
Do we see early childhood educators? Do we see those in the beauty sector? In retail? In nursing? All industries dominated by women. All industries hardest hit by the fallout from the pandemic.
You know where those individuals are? They’re working tirelessly on the frontline to get us through this gruelling period. They’re trying to build back their businesses with minimal support. They’re caring for their families, their neighbours, their friends. They’re seeking collaborative solutions not a mob mentality. They’re saving lives.
Certainly, not all of them are content with the government’s navigation of the pandemic. There would be thousands of women in these industries equally concerned or opposed to a mandated vaccination. But they’re finding a way to protest without harming or inflicting fear on others in their midst.
With more than 95,000 members, The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, called on protesters yesterday to “stop thinking only of themselves” and prioritise the health of the community.
“Nurses, midwives and carers are exhausted and frustrated as they watch protesters fight for their right to overwhelm our health system,” state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said.
“Do not leave all the heavy lifting to nurses, midwives and personal care workers.”
Do not leave all the heavy lifting to women, period.