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Update on International Women's Day (IWD) in Australia

The comrades of CPA/ML (Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) update their report on 15 March


The following is an update on the women’s movement in Australia. Despite the IWD activities being quite passive (on-line seminars and the like), women have spontaneously organised Marches for Justice around the nation following a series of allegations of rape at the level of the federal government. The first, in Perth yesterday, involved around 4000 women.  Others will be held today at 42 other cities and towns.

Three things have prompted these rallies and marches, and they are independent of IWD.

1.      On January 25, a Tasmanian woman, Grace Tame, was named 2021 Australian of the Year. Tame was groomed when she was 15 and then repeatedly sexually abused by her 58-year-old teacher. Her attacker was convicted of "maintaining a sexual relationship with someone under the age of 17", which she said implied a consensual relationship. However, she had to campaign against a law which prohibited survivors of sexual assault from speaking out publicly so that she could then campaign to have the law on speaking out changed. She won the campaign and became a national symbol of women’s courage in speaking about sexual assault. She delivered a powerful and emotional speech about this at the award ceremony in front of the Prime Minister.

2.      Tame’s speech inspired another young woman to go public with claims of having been raped. At the time of the alleged rape, Brittany Higgins had been a staffer employed by the Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds. The rape was allegedly by another of Reynolds’s staffers and took place late at night in Reynolds’s parliamentary office. Higgins claimed that she had been told that she would have to choose between complaining to the police and keeping her job. That was two years ago. The Minister tearfully denied, in Parliament, that she had not supported Higgins, and then went on medical leave. In the first week of her leave, another staffer leaked to the press the claim that, in relation to the lack of support issue, Reynolds had called Higgins a “lying cow” in front of others in her office. She has had to publicly apologise to Higgins and make an out-of-court financial settlement of a pending defamation case brought on by Higgins.

3.      Whilst the government was trying to contain the damage of the Higgins allegations, a 32-page letter was sent to the Prime Minister and his Attorney-General, Christian Porter, by friends of a woman who had claimed to have been raped by Porter in 1988 when they were both teenagers and members of an Australian Schools Debating Team. The letter was a copy of a statement she had made to her solicitor detailing the rape. She had been to the police in 2020 and made a complaint about Porter, but in the middle of the year had withdrawn the complaint, committing suicide a day later. The police closed the case following her death, saying there was no admissible evidence and no chance of a prosecution.  Porter had been the subject of a November 2020 TV report which cited evidence of his misogyny and crude sexism during his university days. It further alleged that, although married, Porter had kissed and cuddled a colleague's political staffer in a public setting, a nightclub. He had been reprimanded by then PM Malcolm Turnbull early in 2018. Turnbull followed up by announcing what came to be called a “bonk ban”, prohibiting Ministers, whether married or single, from having sexual relationships with members of staff. Porter has strenuously denied the rape allegation, and has been strongly backed by current PM Morrison on the grounds of a presumption of innocence.  Porter is, like Reynolds, currently on medical leave.

This is necessarily a lengthy background as to why women are marching today despite not having done so on March 8. We will be participating in and leafletting rallies today.

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