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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Thu, 6 Nov 97 15:54:53 CST
From: NY-Transfer-News@abbie.blythe.org
Subject: Australia:Women Reclaim the Night
Article: 21305

Women reclaim the night

Green Left Weekly, #296, 5 November 1997

On October 30 and 31, thousands of women and male supporters marched in the annual Reclaim the Night events Australia-wide to protest violence against women. WA Greens Senator Dee Margetts submitted a Senate motion supporting the actions.

From Brisbane Ruth Ratcliffe reports that 1000 women gathered at King George Square and heard speakers from the Brisbane Rape and Incest Crisis Centre, Women's Legal Service, Queensland Women's Interest Coalition and Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation.

The speakers condemned the government's attacks on women, especially the massive funding cut imposed on the Rape and Incest Crisis Centre which has undermined the 24-hour state-wide crisis line.

During the lively march to Musgrave Park, many more men than in previous years showed their support by lining the march route. Information about a public meeting called by the International Women's Day collective to discuss how to organise to stop the government's attacks was enthusiastically welcomed by the marchers.

Kerryn Williams reports from Canberra that despite wild thunder storms and heavy rain, 200 people attended a march and rally. Christine Ohrin, Aboriginal outreach educator and counsellor for the Rape Crisis Centre, spoke of the rape of Aboriginal land, culture, tradition and health, and highlighted the need for the women's movement to take up the struggles of Aboriginal women.

Resistance activist Justine Kamprad said that violence against women is broader than physical attacks, and appealed to women to help build a strong women's movement. The Association of Non-English Speaking Background Women of Australia's Marionelle Hill described how non-English speaking women have more difficulty escaping violent domestic situations.

The rally unanimously passed a motion demanding the release of imprisoned Indonesian trade union leader Dita Sari. Lynda Hansen and On entertained the crowd.

From Hobart, Sarah Stephen reports that 100 women marched on a cold, wet evening, chanting We're angry, we're loud; we're women and we're proud.

The rally was chaired by Stephen and speakers included Resistance's Kylie Moon, and Monika Kurkewicz and Lyn Smith from the organising collective. One minute's silence commemorated all the women struggling to end violence and a special tribute was made to Dita Sari and the East Timorese women freedom fighters.

After a rainy day in Melbourne the skies cleared as 700 people rallied before a spirited march led by fire twirlers. Men were encouraged to participate in the rally, but the march was women-only. y Annette Xiberrus, a Wurrundjeri woman, welcomed the protesters onto Aboriginal land. Sarah MacGregor and Marg Darcey from the organising collective spoke about the cuts to women services. The People's Justice Alliance's Catherine Gow spoke movingly of women in prison and the effect of privatisation on Victoria's prisons. Bridget Riggs from Campaign Against Racism also spoke.

The rally expressed its solidarity with women living under brutal regimes overseas. Vannessa Hearman from Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor described the situation of women in Indonesia and the campaign to free Dita Sari, and Elizabeth Esposto spoke about the situation of Timorese women in Australia and East Timor.

Rally organiser and co-chair, Sarah Lantz, told Green Left Weekly, A lot of women have said that it was the best rally they have ever been to. The focus on resisting all attacks on women's rights made the rally relevant to a broader group of women than ever before.

In Parramatta, western Sydney, 200 women and children marched to the mall to hear a range of speakers and singers discuss domestic violence and sexual assault. The event was organised by Klyiah Angel and the Cumberland Women's Health Centre.

Speakers included Sue Pinkham, coordinator of the Aboriginal Women's Legal Resource Centre, who discussed the difficulties in accessing the justice system, and Shalini Lockhardt who spoke about the experiences of women from non-English-speaking backgrounds. A video called Break the Silence was also launched.

Margaret Perrott reports that shoppers in Wollongong mall were greeted by 100 loudly chanting women who marched to the rally there. Radda Jordan from Wollongong Women's Centre; Rebecca Nissom, the University of Wollongong SRC women's officer; and Deborah Aps for the local Aboriginal Land Council addressed the crowd.

Aps pointed out that while violence against women is increasing the government is further reducing resources to Koori women, and all women. The time has come for women to lobby and protest and to prove to this government that the women's movement is alive and well in the '90s, she said.

There was a strong feeling of unity amongst the marchers with lots of singing, including of We shall overcome, a song which local singer/musician Mignon explained had been banned in South Africa under apartheid. Afterward the rally about 50 women attended an evening of performances by local women at the Wollongong Writers' Centre.

Cassandra Pomeroy reports from Sydney that 6000 women and children gathered opposite state parliament, where ABC TV's Julie McCrossin chaired proceedings. Speakers included Dorothy McRae-McMahon from the Council on Violence Against Women; Faye Druett from People With Disabilities; Mary, a survivor of sexual abuse and speakers from the Young Women Survivors' group. The march ended at Circular Quay with stalls and entertainment from a range of performers.

Kamala Emanuel reports from Newcastle that 150 women marched from Islington Park to the James Street mall in Hamilton, where they were joined by male supporters to hear speakers and entertainment.

The rally was addressed by Jillian Meyers-Brittain, a violence prevention worker, and Joan Webster, a women's refuge worker who spoke of the impact of domestic violence on children. Kristi spoke about the fear and effects of violence on young women and Robyn Cotterol-Jones from the Victims Of Crime Assistance League announced that VOCAL will open new premises at 19 Bolton Street in Newcastle on November 3. The first meeting of the International Women's Day collective was also announced.

Some women described their ambivalence about participating when men were excluded. Supporter Graham Williams agreed: A lot of men are opposed to sexist violence against women - and not just physical and verbal abuse, also the violence of the system that cuts women's services, reduces access to education and jobs, and criminalises women's reproductive choice.