Sue Plowright tells her Toora March4Justice story and invites us to join in what’s next.
What do you do if you live a considerable distance from any of the March4Justice events but you feel compelled to stand up and support brave women? You organise one yourself in a few hours and claim the main street of a beautiful small rural town for a time.
While we were frustrated that we still need to be taking action, together with Bev Smallwood, I quickly gathered around 20 people in Toora, South Gippsland, complete with signs and placards, to march up the hill to the highway. Customers at a local cafe turned out and cheered on.
In the following days, as the news spread, many people approached us to say they wish they’d known because they would have joined in.
Inspired by the reception – and motivated by so many stories of local women who told us of their crisis and affordable housing issues, of their job and career barriers, the lost opportunities, the harassment and misogyny they’d persistently faced, along with the very many stories of amazing initiative and persistence – we decided to take more action.
A Mayday Women’s Forum is the result. Mayday as in emergency call, and May Day as in celebration. Older folk remember dancing round maypoles at school on May 1. It is a northern hemisphere thing but it signifies the forum is a celebration as well as an emergency call to urgently and genuinely address women’s safety, justice, and the barriers that limit opportunities.
We’ve designed the forum as a time and place for a diverse range of women to come together, speak and be heard. We hope it raises awareness, creates new networks and leads to new initiatives.
The local federal MP is Mr Russell Broadbent representing the people of the Monash division/electorate. After attending the March4Justice in Canberra, he made some strong public statements urging his colleagues to “be quiet, listen and learn”. As such he was invited to come along and listen, he accepted and will attend.
Participants will hear from around ten women from all walks of life in three minute speeches in the first hour of the forum. In the second, smaller groups will share stories, concerns, needs, ideas and develop statements for Mr Broadbent to take to the National Women’s Safety Summit in Canberra in late July.
For more information, about the May Day event visit www.maydaywomensforum.net.
Sue Plowright and Bev Smallwood organised the Toora March4Justice and are continuing the movement with more events including the Mayday Women’s Forum.