Fellow remarkable women,
It’s been an eventful week - with thousands of Australian women mobilising all over the country to protest our government’s approach to the serious problem of violence against women. I’d like to talk about the response we’ve received from ScoMo and why it’s important that we keep this issue at the forefront of the media and keep this momentum. We’ll also be looking at a new government policy that “allows” victims of abuse to take funds from their superannuation accounts and how woefully inadequate this is, before touching on some uplifting news of how women are supporting women in tech.
Australian Women March 4 Justice
On Monday, the Women’s March 4 Justice saw tens of thousands of Australians take to the streets, protesting against the sexual abuse and harassment of women in the country. Spurred by the wave of sexual assault allegations that have surfaced recently in our parliament, Aussies finally decided that enough is enough.
From noon on Monday, thousands of Aussies mobilised across 40 cities and towns in Australia. Many attendees carried placards and wore black in protest. In Melbourne, protesters carried a long banner listing the names of women killed in acts of gendered violence in the past decade. Organisers at the Canberra rally also presented a petition to lawmakers with over 90,000 signatures calling for greater accountability over sexist behaviours in parliament.
Brittany Higgins, who recently revealed she was raped in a minister’s office, spoke at the march, stating: "There is a horrible societal acceptance of sexual violence experienced by women in Australia… We are all here today, not because we want to be here, but because we have to 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."
And you know what? She’s right.
For the past decade, violence against women in Australia has been rampant. Every week, a woman is murdered. Every day, the number of women who are catcalled, sexually harassed at work, and assaulted in their homes continues to rise. And yet, our government has done nothing.
In fact, ScoMo and our Minister for Women, Marisa Payne, declined to even meet the protesters. ScoMo’s reasoning was that he had already offered to meet the protesters beforehand. And Payne? “I don’t normally attend marches.” Right. I hate to break it to you, Marisa, but these are not normal times. It is not “normal” for women to fear for their safety. It is not “normal” for 1 in 3 Australian women to experience physical violence by the age of 15. It’s not “normal” that over half of Australian women have experienced current partner violence. It’s not “normal” that almost 10 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner. It’s not “normal” for our nation’s leader to only sympathise with a rape victim when he thinks of it in terms of his own daughters. It’s not “normal” for a rape victim to be called a “lying cow” by the Minister for Defence.
None of this is “normal”.
ScoMo’s response to the march continues his trend of being utterly out of touch as well. How did he respond to thousands of women crying for justice you ask? With this:
“Not far from here, such marches, even now are being met with bullets, but not here in this country… This is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place.”
The moment I heard those words, I shook my head in disbelief. How is it that ScoMo completely missed the point of these marches? The marches were held to protest against gendered violence and to call for the government to respond to a 12-month-old report by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which examined the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. They were not held so that ScoMo could wax poetic on the triumph of a liberal democracy, shrug off our concerns and say, “at least we’re not shooting protestors.”
Tanya Plibersek put it well when she said:
“That final comment that we should be grateful, that we are in a place that you don't get shot for marching, was so off the mark… This is a moment when women are raising up their voices for change.”
Australia has a serious, systemic problem of gendered violence. This is something we’ve known for years. And yet, the parliamentary question time held after the march achieved nothing except for accusations and excuses being thrown back and forth. Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, moved to suspend standing orders, pressing the government to fully explain its response to the alleged rape of Higgins and commission an independent inquiry into Porter’s fitness for office. Just four minutes into reading Brittany Higgins speech Albanese was silent as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton strolled to the dispatch box and moved that he “no longer be heard”.
Morrison continued to resist calls to establish an independent inquiry into the 1988 sexual assault allegation against Porter and then moved to shut down question time after only 35 minutes.
Ladies, Morrison is hoping that this is yet another issue that will lose steam. That we will lose interest and give up on protesting. This cannot happen. We need to persist. We need to keep attention focussed on our cause and increase the pressure on the government to change its stance. Only then will we see actual results.
Fund Your Own Crisis
Superannuation is the nest egg that many of us are supposed to rely on after we’ve stopped working. It’s the cumulation of decades in the workforce, supposed to sustain us in our later years. And yet, 23 percent of women retire with no superannuation at all.
For those of us that DO manage to put aside some super? Well, despite women living five years longer than men on average, we generally retire with 47% less superannuation than men. Because the gender pay gap is still alive and well, we also receive less super even when we are working. When it comes to government tax concessions, women only receive 1/3 with men receiving 2/3.
According to ASFA’s latest superannuation statistics, the median account balance for all women is just $45,000, 31% lower than that of men ($65,000). By age 55–64, the gap widens to 35%, with a median balance of $118,600 for women and $183,000 for men. With the advent of COVID, things only got worse with women experiencing more job losses and wage reduction than men.
That’s why the government’s announcement that survivors of family and domestic violence can now strip up to $10,000 from their retirement savings to fund their own crisis response is so deeply upsetting. Making survivors of domestic and family violence fund their own survival and escape by forcing them to take funds from their future economic safety net is a lazy, poorly-considered policy that does nothing to provide actual support to victims - it actually leaves them worse off. And that’s even assuming you have $10,000 to draw from which, as I outlined earlier, a quarter of us simply don’t have.
We need urgent reform of the superannuation system, and we need better responses to the issue of domestic violence. We need a policy that doesn’t leave women out in the cold, to fend for themselves while pretending to care and “support” us.
We deserve better.
Supporting women in tech
In some positive news, women-focused angel group Scale Investors has appointed two new co-chief executive officers - Chelsea Newell and Samar Mcheileh. Having built a network of over 200 angel investors over the past eight years, these remarkable women are continuing the company’s mission with the aim of investing more into women-led startups.
“First and foremost, the mission behind Scale is to get capital into female founders’ hands. That is our priority. The time is now to be investing in the growth of female founders.”
What these women are seeing is also a circular economy of women supporting and uplifting other women. Where female entrepreneurs who have secured funding through Scale Investors before are now joining as investors themselves. The beauty of this is that these female founders aren’t just bringing capital. They’re also contributing their experience, advice, and knowledge to the community.
In a society where our government is doing so little to support us, this is exactly that sort of action that is so desperately needed – and exactly that sort of thing that we here at The Remarkable Women are working to achieve.
Until next week,