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Australians rally for justice for women as alleged rapes shake government

The prime minister refused to address the demonstration in Canberra.

Thousands of people with placards and banners rally demanding justice for women in Sydney
Thousands of people with placards and banners rally demanding justice for women in Sydney
Image: Rick Rycroft via PA Images

AUSTRALIANS HAVE RALLIED in the country’s capital and other cities to demand justice for women and call out misogyny and dangerous workplace cultures as the government reels from two rape allegations.

Outside Parliament House in Canberra, the crowd of hundreds was mostly female and most wore black. They carried placards including the slogans “Justice for Women” and “Men, Own Your Guilt”.

Prime Minster Scott Morrison refused organisers’ demand that he address the crowd. He agreed to meet a delegation of protesters in his office, but a meeting didn’t take place.

“We have already come to the front door, now it’s up to the government to cross the threshold and come to us,” organiser Janine Hendry said.

“We will not be meeting behind closed doors,” she added.

Morrison is standing by Attorney-General Christian Porter over an allegation that he raped a 16-year-old girl when he was aged 17 in 1988. Porter denies the allegation, while his accuser took her own life last year after withdrawing a complaint to police.

Separately, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has been criticised for failing to adequately support a young staffer who alleged she was raped by a more senior colleague in the minister’s office in Parliament House in 2019.

Brittany Higgins said she felt she had to make a choice between reporting her allegations to police or continuing her career. She quit her government job in January and reported her allegation to police.

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“I was raped inside Parliament House by a colleague, and for so long it felt like the people around me only cared because of where it happened or what it might mean for them,” a tearful Ms Higgins told the Canberra crowd.

“It was so confusing because these people were my idols. I had dedicated my life to them. They were my social network, my colleagues, and my family. And suddenly they treated me differently. I wasn’t a person who had gone through a life-changing, traumatic event. I was a political problem,” she added.

The Associated Press does not usually identify alleged victims of sexual assault, but Higgins has chosen to identify herself in the media.

The protests, which also took place in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Hobart, coincide with the first sitting of Parliament since the allegation against Porter became public in early March.

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