Last night, as the wind howled and the rain clattered on Melbourne rooftops, Melbourne Feminist Action held its inaugural meeting, heating up Meeting Room 1 at Trades Hall with its enthusiasm for women’s rights.
Approximately 120 people attended: current women’s rights and activist organisations were well represented, as well as a diverse range of community groups and student bodies. But perhaps the most exciting part was the wonderful interest and enthusiasm shown by people who had never been to such a meeting before – who were not affiliated with any organisation but came because they wanted to put forward their ideas about how to combat sexism.
There was a strong focus on the reassertion of reproductive rights; in particular, the right to access abortion safely and easily. There was also significant focus on access and inclusion of women from marginalised groups, such as migrant women and ATSI women, as well as women who are faced with extra hurdles to their involvement in a campaign, whether that be due to education, physical condition, location, or simply having children. There was enthusiasm for consciousness-raising on sexism and domestic violence, and proposals ranged in scope from local, community-based initiatives to national campaigns.
Three proposals that received significant support from speakers in the room were put to a vote, and all three were agreed upon. They were:
1. A one-off en masse counter rally to defend the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne on November 24. The FCC is a women’s health clinic on Wellington St that is picketed daily by anti-abortionists who harass, bully and intimidate patients and staff. (Jacinda talked a little about this in her most recent blog post for Overland.)
2. The set-up of an online Melbourne women’s rights activist information hub.
3. A resolution to come together again post-rally with the view to coming up with a campaign for International Women’s Day.
Our next meeting will be on Thursday November 8, 6:30pm at Trades Hall, to organise the counter rally. Again, everyone is welcome to attend: no campaign experience is necessary to be involved, and we hope to see you all there!
Finally, thank you to everyone for attending and sharing your ideas so frankly and respectfully. Thank you to Trades Hall for kindly donating the space. And thank you again to the following individuals and organisations who showed their support and endorsement for this preliminary meeting:
Monica Dux, writer and social commentator
Shakira Hussein, National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne
Alison Croggon, author, poet and critic
Associate Professor Jo Wainer AM
Eva Cox, writer, feminist and social commentator
Marieke Hardy, writer and radio presenter
Emily Maguire, writer and social commentator
Karen Pickering, Cherchez La Femme
Jeff Sparrow, writer and editor, Overland
Jeannie Rea, President, NTEU
Noni Sproule, National Women’s Officer, National Union of Students
Debbie Brennan, Radical Women
AlisonThorne, Freedom Socialist Party
Marian Prickett, station manager, 3CR
Liz Griffiths, Monash Student Association Queer Department
Margarita Windisch, Socialist Alliance, Melbourne
Simon Butler, Green Left Weekly
Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights
Fiona Patten, Australian Sex Party, Melbourne
Elena Jeffreys, representative, The Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
Women’s Domestic Violence Crisis Service
Hiba Casablanca, Shakti Migrant and Refugee Women’s Support Group, Melbourne
La Barbe Australia
Sophie Cunningham, writer
Yasmine Lintvelt, Womyn’s Officer, RMIT Student Union
Sally Christiansen, RMIT Student Union
Sally-Anne Jovic, Women’s Officer, Monash Student Association Women’s Dept
Samiro Douglas, CEO, WIRE
Council of Single Mothers and their Children, Victoria
Jacinta Le Plastrier, writer/publisher
Jennifer O’Donnell-Pirisi, Women’s Officer, Victorian Trades Hall Council
Lisa Carey, National Coordinator, EMILY’s List Australia
Domestic Violence Victoria
Vixen Collective (Victoria’s peer sexworker organisation)
Judy Horacek, cartoonist