A large crowd stand holding placards, one of which reads "#METOO". In the background, a screen reads "Time to unite and prove we are unbroken" and displays the Women's March logo

Canberra Stands Unbroken

Content warning: sexual harassment,
Image Credit: Phoebe Lupton

“You may have broken us once but today we stand unbroken together.” – Brianna Keys, Event Organiser
It all started with a crazy idea, enthusiastic volunteers and an announcement. After the challenging year that was 2017, our team at Jasiri were shocked to hear that no march had been organised for Canberra – that this city wouldn’t be contributing to the momentum created for women’s rights. This ended up being the catalyst for the 2018 Canberra Women’s March (held on the 4th February 2018).

Caitlin Figeiredo, the CEO of Jasiri, a Canberra-based youth and women’s rights organization, decided that if no-one had currently stepped up to plan a women’s march, Jasiri was going to be the organisation to host it. Canberra needed to show strength, defiance and unity in speaking out against inequality and injustice experienced within our communities. And so began the momentous experience of planning a local event in two weeks, with no budget and a small number of volunteers.

Organiser, Amy Blain says “Pulling together the Women’s March event in two weeks, on zero dollars, was ambitious and intense! Twice we almost cancelled. We were incredibly lucky to overcome logistical nightmares like insurance (thanks, UnionsACT) and permits. We had incredible support from the Canberra community that generously provided us with highly skilled, passionate, committed and enthusiastic volunteers. There were a lot of long hours and late nights to ensure everything ran smoothly. Accessibility, inclusion and safety were our core values. Our fabulous line-up of speakers platformed the rich diversity of women’s voices in the ACT, many of whom live with multiple and intersecting disadvantages. We prized those voices being authentic. We knew we needed St John’s Ambulance, a Safer Space and volunteers that could de-escalate disruptions. We made sure our speakers and performers could be clearly heard and understood with wonderful technical sound support (SideStage Productions) and two fabulous AUSLAN interpreters that donated their expertise. We had two professional photographers capturing the sense of community perfectly, from fun sign making, glitter and bubbles to serious speeches. You cannot please all the people all the time, but this is a movement, not a moment. We are always learning and growing.”

For this year’s Women’s March, inspiration centred on unity and solidarity, which are strongly valued by Jasiri and were reflected in the event’s theme ‘Unbroken’. Jasiri’s aim this march was to create a united and diverse front to express the strength and solidarity it is to be a woman. The idea behind our unity spiral, a human chain of our supporters holding hands in union, was that enough is enough. Women are tired of being demeaned, bullied, and violated. We were taking a stand and saying harassment and violence is no longer going to be a normal experience to us anymore. We wanted to set a future standard of what the world should look like.

Brianna Keys, an event organiser, spoke about her experience of attending the march and why it was needed: “Before I even arrived at the women’s march to set up, I experienced a common occurrence when I walk alone around Canberra, and that is the verbal harassment. From a personal perspective, loud hollers about my physical appearance, imposing messages about what these individuals would do to me, and the criticism of my response, left me feeling unsafe and cautious towards what the day would have in store for me. This is a situation that is all too familiar to many women. Movements such as #metoo expressed the extent of this violence epidemic, but enough is enough. Women deserve to be treated better and that’s exactly what movements such as this march are all about. It is a public announcement that you may have broken us once but today we stand unbroken together.”

The Canberra Women’s March this year was a reminder that as a community we stand together to combat violence and harassment. This march gave us a physical representation of how our community comes together as a collective to help support one another.