By Kendall Galbraith

This year, for International Women’s Day (IWD) we encouraged our Network – our women, to host their own IWD event across the regions. To take a moment and reflect on this year’s theme of choose to challenge.

We suggested, hold a morning tea, or get some friends together for a lunch and send us your photos and make sure to hashtag the event. Up until a few weeks ago, everything was on a track for what now seems like a very shallow approach to this day.

Facing IWD, this year in 2021, as the leader of the RRR Network of WA, I feel ambivalent, frustrated, and upset. So instead of having cups of tea and hash tagging, this year I would like to acknowledge IWD by taking a moment to recognise the injustices against women that have dominated Australia’s news cycles this year.

I will indeed ‘choose to challenge’ by speaking up about the recent events and the way forward, as inspired by Grace Tame at her address at the National Press Club last week.

Grace spoke candidly for her entire address. She did not tip toe around any point. She told it how it was, what disappointed her, what was wrong with our judicial system, our culture, linguistics and lastly the narrative between victim and perpetrator.

She implored journalists to change the way stories are written about sexual abuse. To empower the victim with their bravery, and not to sensationalise the abuse details. Grace said that we are stuck in a narrative cycle that prioritises the drama, gives voices to the perpetrator and lacks constructive discussion on healing and resolving the issue.

Jenna Clarke echoed my emotions when I read her article over the weekend. She said “how much women, from all walks of life, every stage in life, are over it…They are done with the systemic barriers they face. They are fed up with the unconscious biases”.

I was saddened and reminded of the truths Grace spoke of and how we must do better. I was nodding in agreeance with Jenna’s frustration, and then I saw another image, taking up nearly the entire front page, of the young woman talking about her alleged rape that occurred at Parliament House in 2019.

Grace asked journalists to get permission from victims before writing their stories and sharing their image. I therefore will not mention her name out of both respect for her wellbeing and have not received her approval to use her name.

This article was an ‘add-on’. It served no purpose to the victim in empowering her, empowering me as a reader or resolving the issue. It only sought to drag us through the meaningless, and this is where Jenna’s words ring true.

I rather read articles that seek to resolve the problems women face. The problem of toxic workplace cultures that give rise to the abuse and harassment that is scaled right across Australia’s industries and institutions in some shape or form. We want action, not drama. Women are exhausted by the repetition that details abuse and highlights the inequity.

Please change the narrative and let us have serious conversations that seek to increase the safety of women and ultimately a path towards equality. Articles that discuss how to introduce or improve consent curriculum, how difficult is that and what is required, how long will that take to be rolled out nationally, how do we engage family in the learning. Or explore how consent is more than just the physical, it is also respecting right to privacy or ownership. I would rather read stories about empowered men who will role model our boys to respect girls and later women.

I am not silencing victims’ stories; sharing is a critical step to their personal healing. It is the narrative that follows that we must work on.

Increasing the safety of women is a shared responsibility. It does not fall on journalists; they only write the stories that exist. However, I challenge us all to expect and pursue constructive dialogues, not drama and not only after a new abuse surfaces but from now onwards, until we have eradicated the injustices against women.