End violence against women, say unionists on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2023
People hold sign that reads "Strong unions need women".
International Women’s Day participants outside Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson’s office in Geelong. Photo: Jacqueline Kriz

“End violence against women” was the theme of the Geelong Women Unionists Network’s (GWUN) 21st International Women’s Day breakfast at Geelong Trades Hall on March 4. More than 60 people took part.

In her acknowledgement, First Nations elder and Palawa woman Aunty Lyn McInnis spoke about women’s strength to resist and the need to support the Voice to Parliament.

After a minute’s silence for women killed from family violence, GWUN co-convener Adele Welsh reported on the high rate of domestic violence in Geelong.

She said paid family and domestic violence leave (FVL) is essential, and reminded those present that the first paid FVL clause in an enterprise bargaining agreement was won by a GWUN member. Since then, 11 million workers across Australia have benefited from paid FVL — now a part of the National Employment Standards.

Retired social worker and GWUN member Nancy Donkers — also a founding member of Reclaim the Night Geelong Collective — criticised Australia’s adversarial court system for failing to provide justice for victim-survivors of sexual assault.

“The system is set up to deter women from reporting sexual assaults and, at every point of the process, the attrition rate is high, as women are re-traumatised,” she said.

Community and Public Sector Union members Jodi Peskett and Pia Cerveri spoke about the campaign to ensure that gendered violence and sexual harassment in the workplace — an occupational health and safety issue — is enshrined in law.

MP for Geelong Chris Couzens talked up the Voice and then outlined reforms to consent laws under the Victorian Crimes Act 1958, which aim to place the onus of proving consent onto the perpetrator.

Activists then marched to Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson’s office for a speak-out on what still needs attention. Speakers stressed the need to close the gender pay gap, raise wages for early childhood educators and aged care workers, end the cap on council workers’ pay and increase funding for family violence services, health care and education.

Speakers addressed stopping the inhumane treatment of refugees and privatisation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and aged care services in local councils.

Speakers pointed out the hypocrisy of the government saying there is not enough money for pay rises or action on climate change, when there always seems to be billions of dollars for submarines and the military.

[Patriarchy, Privilege & Power — Medical Misogyny is GWUN’s next event on May 4, 6–7.30pm, at the Geelong Regional Library. Phone (03) 4201 0600 for bookings or register online here.]

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