‘All governments must do more’: PM and premiers join thousands across Australia to end violence against women

Dylan Caporn
The Nightly
People march towards Federation Square during a rally against women's violence in Melbourne.
People march towards Federation Square during a rally against women's violence in Melbourne. Credit: Diego Fedele/Getty Images

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has asked Australia to hold him “accountable” for his Government’s actions on violence against women, as he gave an impassioned speech to protesters in Canberra on Sunday.

Joining thousands of marchers across the country, Mr Albanese spoke, albeit through interjections, calling for Australia to change its culture, attitudes and legal system to end the violence against women.

But in a tense moment, Mr Albanese suggested he had asked organisers whether he should speak, but had been rejected.

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“We did ask to speak, myself and (Finance minister) Katy (Gallagher) and we were told that’s not possible,” he said.

“And that’s fine, we respect the organisers’ right to do that.” A woman next to the prime minister interjected: “That’s a lie”.

Mr Albanese told the 5000-strong Canberra crowd Australia must do better.

“We’re here today to demand that governments of all levels, must do better, including my own, and every state and territory government,” he said.

“We need to change the culture, we need to change attitudes, we need to change the legal system.

“We need to change the approach by all governments because it is not enough to support victims, we need to focus on the perpetrators and focus on prevention.”

Mr Albanese spoke of what his government had done to address the issue, but was interrupted by a protester saying: “It’s not enough.”

The Prime Minister replied: “I agree it’s not enough. I said that. We need to do more.”

After describing violence against women as “an epidemic”, Mr Albanese told the crowd: “It’s up to men to change men’s behaviour as well.”

“Yes, people do need to be made accountable and I’ll be accountable for what my Government does.”

Canberra rally organiser Sarah Williams used a speech earlier to demand the politicians present agree to demands to make policy change in a tense exchange.

When Labor ministers, including Senator Gallagher and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth, did not respond, they were booed and heckled from the audience.

“Why are you even here?” one protester yelled from the crowd.

“Shame on you,” shouted another.

Rallies were also held in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth on Sunday, after an event in Sydney on Saturday, where former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, NSW Premier Chris Minns and MP Rose Jackson were all in attendance.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan (centre) takes part in a rally against women's violence on April 28, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians around the country turned out in large numbers to call for an end to gender-based violence, highlighted in a series of recent attacks on women that have forced state governments into action on the issue. (Photo by Diego Fedele/Getty Images) Diego Fedele
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan (centre) takes part in a rally against women's violence on April 28, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians around the country turned out in large numbers to call for an end to gender-based violence, highlighted in a series of recent attacks on women that have forced state governments into action on the issue. (Photo by Diego Fedele/Getty Images) Diego Fedele Credit: Diego Fedele/Getty Images

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan and her deputy Ben Carroll, as well as federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, joined the 15,000-strong Melbourne rally, while Queensland Premier Steven Miles and Opposition Leader David Crisafulli went to the Brisbane event.

“Today it’s fantastic to see so many Queenslanders out in force supporting those Queenslanders, sending a message that that kind of behaviour is just not acceptable in our State or in our society,” Mr Miles said.

“I think men need to be advocates too. We need to support the women of our state, we need to send a signal that we don’t accept violence, and we need to tell other men that that kind of behaviour as well as coercive control, it’s just not acceptable.”

Earlier on Sunday, Ms Rishworth expressed hope the renewed focus on the issue would be a catalyst for change.

“It is good that we’re having a national conversation about this but one life lost to domestic and family violence is one life too many,” she said.

“What I hope is this national conversation will mean that there is sustained attention and sustained resolve across all areas of society community to say enough is enough.”

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