Bunbury team leader Aoife McGreal tells her March4Justice story.
I moved to Bunbury, WA from Ireland nine years ago with my husband, dog and toddler. I was 34 and really only beginning my feminist journey. I began to discover many outspoken women on social media and liked what they had to say and started to learn more about the patriarchy and what it meant and how it impacted on me and the women and girls around me.
The day I sat and watched Christian Porter give that press conference where he tearfully denied being a teenage rapist, was a watershed moment for me. I could feel the anger rising inside me. I thought “this cannot be for real.” I felt it was pushing at my insides, looking for somewhere to go. In that moment, I knew I had to do something and decided to organise a protest march in Bunbury. I had never done anything like this in my life but I know myself and I know that when I want to, I can GET SHIT DONE. The first thing I did was create a private Facebook group and an event page and invited all my friends to join them. The following day, I found out online that there were protest marches being organized around the country, which was so heartening and made me realise I would not be alone in this so I linked in with March4Justice and got to work.
The Bunbury group grew exponentially overnight and I was contacted by some amazing women offering to help with writing media releases and full of ideas of where we should march to, who should speak and who we could invite. Some of the challenges for me personally were trying to call and email politicians’ offices with invitations to join us at the march, while juggling life at home with four young children and the chaotic nature of our house. I did print and radio interviews in the car while dropping children to various after school activities and fit in admin work while the baby slept. But I still felt totally invigorated and motivated to keep moving forward toward the main goal on March 15.
On the day of the march, I woke up with a knot of nerves in my stomach. Would many show up? Would I have made a fool of myself publicly? I dropped my kids to school and my son’s teacher gave me a big thumbs up and good luck. She had attended the march the day before in Perth and her mother was coming to the Bunbury march! It gave me such a lift. Many school mums messaged me privately to tell me they were with me and say well done.
A woman who attended and works in event management estimated that about 500 people turned up, which is pretty big for Bunbury! The signs were colourful and impactful and we marched down Victoria Street and handed in a stack of letters demanding change to Nola Marino’s (our Federal MP) office. She was in Canberra at the time but we secured a meeting with her two weeks later, not that it was particularly productive.
Organising this march has lit a fire in me. I have been at home mothering small children for a decade and I missed using my brain for non-parent related things. I loved every minute of meeting amazing women, making new friends on Zoom and just feeling like I could actually make a difference so my girls don’t have to grow up putting up with harassment or abuse as the norm. Of course I couldn’t have achieved it without the support and encouragement of so many local women who spoke at the march, emceed, advised in the background and offered ideas and information. So to them, I will always be grateful for accepting me even though none of us knew each other before and just running with me towards the finishing line.
Into the future, we hope that March4Justice in Southwest WA will achieve some change for women suffering in our local community and that is our focus as we take this movement forward. When we have to, we will march again!
Aoife McGreal organised the Bunbury March4Justice. Aoife is team leader for Bunbury.