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Australians rise up against gender-based violence

Jenna Walkowiak and her daughter Calie at a rally in Perth, Australia. Walkowiak said her partner tried to kill her while she was pregnant with Calie. (Marit Nair/YJI)

Perth, AUSTRALIA – After a horrific stabbing in a Sydney mall that claimed six lives – five of them women – and a rise in deaths from domestic violence, thousands of Australians took to the streets to protest gender-based violence.

Erin Baskerbille and her daughter, Alice at the rally in Perth. (Marit Nair/YJI)

Rallies and marches took place across the country, with survivors sharing stories and activists demanding government action.

The nation’s rates of domestic violence are “a disgrace,” said Erin Baskerbille, a woman who attended a recent rally in Perth.

Standing behind her mum, Baskerbille’s young daughter Alice said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese “needs to do something.”

Jenna Walkowiak, who also attended the rally in Perth, said she was a victim of domestic violence.

“Calie’s father tried to kill me when I was three months pregnant, because I tried to leave him,” she stated, referring to her young daughter. “Not much has changed. If it doesn’t, our kids will have to face the same.”

Rallies attracted a wide range of people, from young children, men and women, to the very old.

Amber Glauser cited her mum’s experience as a victim of domestic violence.

Ivelio Williams said she held in her mind “the women that have lost their lives” and their children left behind.

Maybe the police need to be more stringent in responding, Williams said, adding that it’s almost like violence is a part of Australian culture, but it’s not.

What’s needed, suggested Williams, is mental health care, “to get men the help that they need.”

Amber Glauser. (Marit Nair/YJI)

An Australian advocacy group called What Were You Wearing organized the rallies in response to national outrage at reports of gender-based violence.

At the Perth rally, protesters criticized the Albanese administration and called on him to do more.

“We are in a national emergency,” said Greens Senator Dorinda Cox at the rally. “Get on with it.”

But Meretta Kickett, whose daughter died as a result of domestic violence in 2023, stepped up onto the stage and interrupted Cox.

Without a microphone, Kickett began shouting and it seemed she was about to be removed from the stage.

But chants of “leave her alone” and “let her speak” erupted from the crowd, and the police present at the event retreated.

“I begged. I begged!” Kickett shouted to the crowd. “They never invited me!”

After a few minutes of tearful and almost inaudible speaking, she turned back for an emotional hug with Cox and her cousins Megan and Rosalie Kickett, who also spoke at the rally.

“All these women are somebody. They’ve got a name. They belong to their family, they belong to their babies, they belong to their community,” Rosalie Kickett said. “It all happened in her house. That’s supposed to be a safe space for all these women … women are in crisis all day every day all hours of the night.”

Megan Kickett’s speech directly addressed the state.

“Where is the 24-hour support, the intense psychosocial support?” she asked. “It’s not just about listening. It’s about listening, hearing, and acting.”

She called for in-school education beginning with preschool to “get our children to understand about happy family lives.”

Some of the crowd at the recent protest in Perth. (Marit Nair/YJI)

Jolene Ellat, founder of Western Australia’s Domestic Abuse Resource and Training Group, called for a “whole community approach” against domestic violence.

“First and foremost, we call upon the government to recognize the situation. We cannot throw money at the problem and expect anything to change,” Ellat said, to loud applause.

Ellat also called for “long-term, non-competitive funding for our shelters that are stretched to their limit,” and “safe and trauma-informed reporting” to protect victims from being re-traumatized.

There should be a 48-hour restraint on reporting victims’ identities so families won’t learn the news online, Ellat said.

Press coverage of the April 13 Sydney mall stabbing drew criticism after the release of one victim’s details against her family’s wishes.

Social media, according to Ellat, “perpetuates the cycle of violence and sensationalizes victims.”

Ellat  took part in the same march with her mother as a 10-year-old.

“The time for complacency is over,” she said.

Other speakers included Amani, a 16-year-old Palestinian-Australian activist, Cate Raston, cofounder of the We Are Womxn campaign, who called out the “gendered gap in government funding,” international human rights lawyer Rabiya Sadik, who criticized Australia’s “alcohol-loving sexist and racist culture” and Constance Hall, who spoke about the issues teenage girls face from boys and their culture in school.

Will and Allison Scott are the father and sister of Jessica Scott, who was murdered by her partner in 2019.

“This is a male problem, not a female problem,” Will Scott said. Directly addressing the audience, he added, “Your work is not done at the end of this rally.”

Marit Nair is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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