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No sexist parliament, no sexist schools: Youth survivors demand justice

Youth survivors will not be silent on issues of sexual violence.

Photography: Lia Perkins

Hundreds of young survivors of sexual assault and their supporters gathered at Town Hall today. The group marched to Circular Quay demanding “no sexist parliament” and “no sexist schools.”

The rally was organised by Youth Survivors for Justice and chaired by Chloe and Erin, two of its members. The event follows on from a range of actions around consent and sexual assault since Brittany Higgins spoke out in March, and Chanel Contos’s viral petition. The chairs provided an emphasis on the need to fully fund women’s services, improve consent education and provide economic safety for women in the lead up to the release of the Federal budget next week.

The organisers made the rally a COVID-safe event, with a COVID check in and participants wearing masks. 

The Welcome to Country was given by Shanaya Donovan, a Darug woman, who later spoke about her experience as a survivor, and dismay at the Government because “they don’t care about the people who are less than them, who are making less than them, who their policies are affecting.”

Saxon Mullins, survivor and Director of Advocacy at Rape and Sexual Assault Reserch and Advocacy (RSARA) energised the crowd, declaring “we’re here today to be loud, to be heard.” According to Mullins, “when we hide from this topic, we allow it to fester in the absence of our discussions. We allow it to turn from a myth to be disproven into a core belief.”

Mullins addressed the intersectionality of the situation, “The Prime Minister is happy to extend an invite to the organisers of the March for Justice but won’t meet with the families of the people who have died at the hands of our police and our prison systems. Conditional Compassion does not exist.”

The experience of sexual violence by Aboriginal women was addressed by Yatungka Gordon, a Goreng Goreng Kabi Kabi Munanjali woman, who spoke about her work with the Breaking Silent Codes Collective in creating safe spaces for Aboriginal, Mauri and Pasifika women. The Breaking Silent Codes Collective aims to “tell their stories, resilience and resistance their way.” Gordon urged for earlier consent education and creating safe spaces for young people, “in schools we’re not even talking about what sexual abuse, rape or consent are.”

Fei Zhang and Ruby Wawn described the parallel struggle of women and workers. Zhang, who works in homelessness services and is a member of the Australian Services Union, expressed that “the lack of options for working class and poor women to leave domestic violence is now increasingly terrifying.” Furthermore, she identified the $56 million cut to homelessness services that the Federal Government has proposed, cuts to Jobseeker and allegations of sexual assault by Federal Government ministers as “beyond comprehension.” 

Tying together the problems of sexual assault, homelessness and cuts to JobSeeker, Jenny Leong, Member for Newtown argued that they are “all part of the same problem: a neoliberal agenda.” 

At the conclusion of the speeches the rally advanced towards Hyde Park and through the city streets to Circular Quay. With attendees chanting “1-2-3-4, Kick the Liberals out the door, 5-6-7-8 Stop the Violence, Stop the Rape.”