News Just the beginning: March 4 Justice protesters say they won’t back down
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Just the beginning: March 4 Justice protesters say they won’t back down

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Scott Morrison should fear the women he was too busy to meet at Parliament House on Monday, according to campaigners for gender equality who have promised to double down on their demands.

On Monday the Prime Minister refused to meet women outside Parliament as they gathered to protest against men’s violence towards women and cultures that allow it to proliferate.

Thousands gathered across the nation to demand the strengthening of the Sex Discrimination Act, a 50-50 gender split in all Australian parliaments by 2030, and independent investigations into parliamentarians accused of gendered violence.

The marches may be over, but the organisers say they are not backing down.

“This will just get more momentum,” organiser Janine Hendry said.

“This government, the Opposition, and all political parties have not heard the last from us.”

Janine Hendry with deputy PM Michael McCormack on Tuesday. Photo: AAP

Ms Hendry, an academic and designer from Melbourne, started the protest movement off the back of a Twitter post 14 days ago.

She said although the organisation is only two weeks old, it was determined to change how society treats women.

“This has been building for years,” she said.

“But these last couple of weeks have demonstrated our current government’s lack of respect to the women of Australia.

“We’re exhausted listening to their hollow words. It’s time for action.”

Ms Hendry said the latest Newspoll demonstrated how much effect the movement had already had. Over the weekend it showed Labor had overtaken the Coalition on a two-party-preferred basis, after the government’s mishandling of the Christian Porter and Brittany Higgins sexual assault ­allegations.

“Women are 52 per cent of the vote. You can’t keep ignoring us forever,” Ms Hendry said.

The rallying cry to keep pressure on the government comes after a month of accusations that Parliament House is a hotbed of misogynist beliefs and inappropriate behaviour.

Community advocate Hetty Johnston has worked in men’s violence for 25 years and was the founder of Bravehearts.

She said if the Prime Minister refused to listen to women who are sick and tired of being raped, murdered, and treated with disrespect, then they will show their anger at the ballot box.

“This could be the end of the Morrison government,” Ms Johnston said.

Hetty Johnston has worked to stop men’s violence for 25 years.

Ms Johnston said we had ignored the issue of gendered violence for so many decades that it was now “playing out in our own Parliament”.

“We need to nurture our men, educate them when they are young and lead by example,” Ms Johnston said.

“The levels of domestic violence are growing exponentially. Kids are picking up on it. Monkey see, monkey do.”

On Tuesday, the government was again criticised for having a deaf ear as it confirmed its policy to allow domestic violence survivors to access their superannuation before retirement.

The policy has been criticised for exposing vulnerable women to financial harm later in life.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said the policy would “ransack retirement savings” of people escaping domestic violence.

“This is a cruel and discriminatory policy which will further entrench the truly appalling gender gap on super and effectively punish those who have survived family and domestic violence when they retire,” she said.

The Women’s March 4 Justice in Hobart. Photo: AAP

But Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume defended the policy, saying it was an ”important last-resort lifeline” to help those escaping domestic violence.

Patty Kinnersly, CEO of family violence prevention group Our Watch, said to stop all forms of violence against women we need to elevate their positions in society.

“For example, improving women’s economic security and setting cultures of non-violence and respect within our schools, workplaces, and institutions and reforming discriminatory systems,” Ms Kinnersly said.

She said we need all organisations across the nation to take a stand.

“While there is some great work being done in the prevention space, we need a shared national goal and a commitment to taking action against violence against women, one that involves whole communities [and] all levels of governments.”

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