‘Porter must go’: Students rage against sexism and rape

A rally led by survivors and young women, many of them high school students, took to the streets in Sydney on Friday to call for an end to sexual violence and for Christian Porter’s sacking. The rally was a lively demonstration of widespread anger at the Coalition’s evasive response to rape allegations in its own ranks.

A crowd of 200 gathered for speeches at Sydney Town Hall and then began a defiant march to the Liberal Party offices in William St against the orders of the police.

Following a Welcome to Country and powerful message of solidarity from Gadigal woman Rhonda Dixon Grovenor, Shanaya, a young Dharug woman, kicked off the speeches. She denounced the recent actions of Christian Porter, Linda Reynolds, Scott Morrison and the Coalition government, saying their actions “demonstrated the depth of their contempt for women and survivors of sexual violence”.

Shanaya spoke about being sexually assaulted public transport when she was just 12 years old and called on the crowd to stand up against sexism and sexual violence wherever they saw it.

“Christian Porter needs to step down immediately while an urgent inquiry takes place into the accusation that he raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988. And after her disgraceful treatment of former Liberal staffer and rape survivor Brittany Higgins, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds also needs to go. Scott Morrison needs to go with them because he is the one who is protecting them,” she added.

The anger towards Porter and the government’s treatment of women was echoed in speeches from Greens MP Jenny Leong, End Rape on Campus co-director and National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) member Anna Hush and Australian Services Union (ASU) member Feiyi Zhang.

High school student and School Strike for Climate activist Dani, who initiated the rally, spoke powerfully about her own experience of sexual assault, declaring:

“I am angry and I am hurt by the behaviour of our politicians and their treatment of survivors of sexual violence. I was only 14 years old when my sexual assault was reported to the police.

“In my case like in so many others no charges were laid.”

She also noted how Christian Porter has a long history of implementing policies that show his contempt for women:

“Porter has been responsible for attacks on women across all aspects of society. As Social Services Minister he presided over cuts and the privatisation of 1800Respect, which is Australia’s national rape crisis call line.”

High school student and Dunghutti woman Erin spoke of the horrific sexual violence that the Australian state has overseen toward Aboriginal women in missions and as domestic servants. She ended her speech with a radical call to action:

“If we want secure work, if we want equal pay, if we want free childcare we must unite and fight. We know what it’s going to take to sack Porter, Reynolds, Scomo and this whole sexist government—all of us protesting and striking together. It’s not men versus women it’s all of us versus the sexist politicians and billionaires.”

As the rally marched down William Street, the crowd chanted, “Hey Scomo shame on you, sack Porter and Reynolds too”, and “1,2,3,4, sexist Liberals out the door, 5,6,7,8, stop the violence, stop the rape”.

The gathering outside the Liberal Party office ended with a final, furious chant of “we’ll be back!”

There will be rallies around the country on Monday as part of the March for Justice. Find details of the event in your city here.

By Matilda Fay

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