Thousands of people are rallying across the country today to demand justice for victims of sexual assault and violence.

The Women's March4Justice movement will see 36 rallies held across the country calling for drastic reform in the wake of allegations of sexual assault in parliament.

Outside of Parliament House, Brittany Higgins delivered a stirring speech to the crowd telling them women fundamentally recognised the system was broken. 

She addressed the rally today that has been attended by thousands of women across Australia with organisers expecting up to 100,000 participants.

"I speak to you today out of necessity," she told the screaming crowed. "We are all here today not because we want to be here, because we have two be here.

"We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place, and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institution.

"We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight."

It's the first time she has returned to Parliament since she quit her job with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash in preparation to tell her story.

The Sydney rally will be held at Town Hall in Sydney's CBD from noon on Monday. Almost 7000 people have said they will attend on the official Facebook event.

Huge crowds also gathered in Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Cairns, Perth Coffs Harbour and other locations across the country over two days of planning protests. 

Almost 7000 women are expected to rally in Sydney today as part of the Women’s March 4 Justice movement. Picture: Brendan Radke
Almost 7000 women are expected to rally in Sydney today as part of the Women’s March 4 Justice movement. Picture: Brendan Radke

 

In Queensland, premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and female members of cabinet confirmed they would join the Brisbane march. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay have confirmed neither will attend the protest, drawing criticism from protesters.

The March4Justice movement is demanding all politicians "address and put an end to the issues of sexism, misogyny, dangerous workplace cultures and lack of equality in politics and the community at large."

Protest organiser Janine Hendry says the protest is about taking a stand against sexual violence and inequality. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Protest organiser Janine Hendry says the protest is about taking a stand against sexual violence and inequality. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Specifically, the rallies are calling for a full police investigation into allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by members of parliament and staff.

Protest organiser Janine Hendry said the protests would "make history" and urged participants to be COVID-safe by wearing face masks and socially distancing.

"This is a peaceful protest and a safe protest. Let's take care of each other and ourselves as we make history," she said.

Ms Hendry bumped into Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in the halls of parliament on Monday, where she asked him to commit to acting on protesters' requests.

"I'm certain that we'll absolutely look at it," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had a surprise chat with organiser of the Women's March 4 Justice protest rally Janine Hendry, in Parliament House in Canberra on Monday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had a surprise chat with organiser of the Women's March 4 Justice protest rally Janine Hendry, in Parliament House in Canberra on Monday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Participants are calling for an independent review by the High Court into "gendered violence in Australia Parliaments," Australia-wide strategies for "deep cultural change in work places, and the political and criminal justice systems" and a Federal ICAC.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to meet a small number of people from the Canberra rally to discuss their concerns.

But event organiser Janine Hendry chose not to accept the Prime Minister's offer to meet, instead saying he should meet with all of the protesters.

"More than 100,000 women and allies from every walk of life are standing up to speak. How could meeting with just three women be enough?"

A spokesperson for March 4 Justice said the rallies were about pushing for "systemic change," starting with the culture at Parliament House.

"Women of Australia do not need more meetings or reports by expert bodies on what needs to be done to end gendered violence," they said.

"Parliament House must be a safe place to work and it must make laws that are enforced that make women safer, in their homes, in their workplace and going about their daily lives."

"They have had enough advice about what to do. It's time for action, right here right now."

Originally published as Rally organisers refuse PM meeting ahead of women's march


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