Activists say the culture of violence against women in Australia is a crisis. Their calls for change were shared loudly by the thousands marching in Sydney as part of this year’s global #WomensWave.

Of the estimated 5000 people who marched from Sydney’s Hyde Park to Belmore Park on Sunday (January 20), most were women.

A point not lost on male marcher, Matthew Thompson.

There needs to be more men here,” he said. “It’s a woma’s issue but it’s also everyone’s issue.

Change is only going to occur when men show up and see that we’re the cause of it, and then use the privilege that we have to take down the patriarchy.’

Prominent Australian feminists spoke at the rally, including ABC podcaster Yumi Stynes and sexual assault survivor and author, Bri Lee.

Speaker, Bri Lee (Photo: Alex Turner-Cohen)


If you have been abused or assaulted and you survived, then you are a gladiator,’ Ms Lee told the roaring crowd.

I was abused in the backyard of my own home. The statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that perpetrators do not need a weapon, do not need the cover of nightfall. The patriarchy gives them everything they need to perpetrate physical and sexual violence against us.’

The chant, Shame, Shame, Shame’, was taken up by the crowd.

Violence against women was protestors’ biggest concern. Particularly in light of the rape and murder of exchange student Aiia Maasarwe in Melbourne last week, and the ongoing #MeToo movement.

Intersectionality and women in STEM were other gender-specific issues that speakers raised.

Marching for women’s rights (Photo: Melanie Wong)


Meagan Date, one of the event’s organisers and part of Wome’s March Sydney, encouraged people to follow the Safe State initiative – a list of 49 policy recommendations from the NSW Wome’s Alliance to reduce violence against women.

They focus on everything around broader cultural change,” she said.

“Things like education initiatives, right through to urgent things that need to happen like increasing funding in shelters, access to safe shelter, access to clothing, hygiene kits… things like that.

What we want is people to spread the word to family and friends – beyond the people who physically came out to march.”

#WomensWave is a global event, and while there were fewer attendees in Sydney this year, organisers are not concerned.

I think it the lower turnout is a combination of a bunch of factors,” Ms Date said.

“Without the catalyst of a big major event like Trump getting elected, getting another 10,000 people out is always going to be hard. And 5000 is still a great turnout.’

Matthew Thompson agreed.

This is my second march but I think the energy here was so much better and way more energised,” he said.

I feel like there’s hope. There’s anger, but there’s also hope that things can change.’

– Alex Turner-Cohen and Melanie Wong