Jesse Lee* is organising the Sydney leg of the March in March protest on March 25. She lives in Sydney’s west and is the primary carer for one of her children. She has first-hand experience of the welfare cuts and the vagaries of the disability support scheme.
Lee put her hand up to organise the Sydney march because she strongly believes that protests are important and they work. She also believes that now is not the time to be quiet.
“Everything we feared under the leadership of [Tony] Abbott has come to pass under the leadership of [Malcolm] Turnbull”, she told Green Left Weekly.
“The right wing has been emboldened and empowered to be ever more divisive socially and economically. That is the harsh reality of the cuts to welfare, pensions and penalty rates, in detaining asylum seekers indefinitely, in housing affordability and countless other attacks.”
Four years ago, the size of the first March in March took a lot of people by surprise: between 80,000 and 110,000 people came out into the streets. The diversity of groups and signs was also exciting.
“One of my favourite signs at the first national March in March was ‘STOP BEING AWFUL’,” Lee said. Others were very specific, telling the Abbott government not to take the knife to welfare, education and other essential services.
“The government [under Turnbull] didn’t stop being awful, it actually grew more awful,” she said.
“Pushing back against a powerful, media-driven right-wing agenda is never going to be easy but people are just as dissatisfied as they were when Abbott was prime minister, possibly more so.
“It’s time to turn that dissatisfaction into action where we work together to create a fairer and kinder Australia.”
Lee said the response to the march has been very positive. “Sydney’s rally will feature First Nations leader Uncle Ken Canning, Eva Cox speaking on welfare rights, Carol Bennet, a Knitting Nanna from Gloucester on the epic struggle against coal seam gas, Paul McAleer from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), with others taking up refugee rights and penalty rates. Melinda Wilson will address the contested Western Sydney incinerator.
“We’ve tried to make sure a wide variety of issues are represented, and of course everyone is free to carry their own placards and banners. Ecopella will be performing, and contingents from groups all over Sydney and beyond will be participating. The march has been endorsed by the MUA and Retail and Fast Food Workers Union. We stress that this is an inclusive, diverse and family friendly event.
“Marching, protesting and rallying … is an exercise in unity. There are a lot of active groups in Sydney, all working on issues that are important to them. March in March is an opportunity to come together and spread the word to others. It is also about finding common ground to achieve their goals.
“The first March in March [in 2014] was not just a huge protest. It was a celebration of dissent and diversity. I hope we can bring that atmosphere to the march again.
“As well as letting people use their voices to express their anger, the march helps to let people know that there is resistance to the Turnbull regime’s policies and decisions.
“Come along on March 25th and be part of that resistance.”
[* Jesse Lee is not her real name.]