Reclaim the Night rally a first for Fremantle

A Reclaim the Night march in Perth last year.

Hundreds of people are expected to take part in Reclaim the Night in Fremantle on October 26. The annual march to stop violence against women has been held in Perth since 1978, the rally. But this year's march and festival will be a first for the port city of Fremantle.

The event is being held to demand an end to violence against women at home and on the street, an end to victim blaming, and the implementation of comprehensive consent education in schools and communities. 

Students at Murdoch University initiated the event after the widely publicised abduction, rape and murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne. The organising group now includes students from other universities and other feminist activists.

The group has been explicit about welcoming trans women, sex workers and men who support the demands of the rally to take part. It is seeking broad support from a range of community organisations.

The campaign has received wide coverage, with two local newspapers reporting it on the front page. The local community radio has featured an interview with one of the rally organisers.

The rally has the support of unions, including the Maritime Union of Australia and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, which have both made substantial donations, the Australian Services Union, which is placing an ad in two local papers to encourage attendance, and the National Tertiary Education Union, the Notre Dame University branch of which is organising a rally contingent.

Issues to be covered by speakers will include the campaign against rape culture at the University of Western Australia, the campaign for consent education for young people, and the campaign against de-funding of Warrawee, Australia's first purpose-built women's refuge.

Other speakers will draw attention to issues such as the mandatory detention of women refugees, the campaign against the Northern Territory intervention, the government's proposed legislation to restrict legal options for sex workers, and for inclusion of women in public space – rather than more CCTV and attacks on civil liberties – as part of the solution to street violence against women.

The rally will begin at Pioneer Reserve, near Fremantle train station, at 6.30pm, then march through the nightclub and cafe strip. The march will be led by 70 women holding candles, a symbolic action with each candle representing 10 metres of the trip that Jill Meagher had to make home without being attacked.
The remainder of the march is open to anyone else who supports its demands and will end with a festival.

A study published in the latest issue of American Political Science Review, examining violence against women in 70 countries over 40 years, reported that “strong feminist movements play the greatest impact in making change — more than countries' wealth, left-wing parties and the number of women in parliament.”

Reclaim the Night has been an important part of building that global movement, and is needed now as much as ever.

As a participant in Perth's 1978 Women Reclaim the Night protest explained in a post on Facebook, “Things have got a lot better in many ways — but not good enough! Don't ever think you can't change the world. Keep going, no matter what. Keep growing and learning and getting smarter at how you work in the world. You will win.

“Things are so different than when [the 1978 rally] happened because we kept going and worked to educate people who didn't realise there was a problem or what the problem was. It was scary sometimes and we wondered if we could change anything, but we did, we and thousands of women all over the world. 
 
“I'll be there at the rally with my family and friends and the sisters young and old, [who] I know and don't know walking for all of us and generations to come.”
[For more information, email reclaimthenightfreo@gmail.com or visit the Facebook event.]