Leaders to meet as thousands rally to end violence

An emergency meeting of Australian leaders will be convened to tackle the scourge of violence against women after tens of thousands of people marched throughout the nation.

A crowd of thousands marched on Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday for the last of 17 weekend rallies following an estimated 15,000 people demonstrating in Melbourne and about 10,000 in Sydney.

Event organiser Sarah Williams detailed her own experience of domestic and sexual violence in front of the crowd gathered on the lawns at Parliament House.

"The relationship was really abusive for 10 months and I was nearly murdered every single day," the 23-year-old told the crowd on Sunday.

"I had no support and I didn't even know that services existed.

"The few that I found, I couldn't really connect to."

At least 27 women have allegedly died by male violence so far in 2024, according to Destroy the Joint.

Ms Williams put the number at 32, including the five women killed in a stabbing attack at a Bondi shopping centre that police said targeted women.

The What Were You Wearing Australia founder demanded the government declare a national emergency to tackle the problem.

Canberra protest against gender violence rally
Amanda Rishworth, Anthony Albanese and Katy Gallagher marched with crowds at the Canberra rally. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese marched with demonstrators alongside Minister for Women Katy Gallagher and Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth.

One victim-survivor who spoke to the prime minister as he arrived at the start of the march asked for a national approach to tackle coercive control.

But the politicians received a more hostile reception at the end of the march when they were booed and jeered, with the crowd yelling "we want action", "do your job" and "what are you even doing here?" after they failed to commit to the rally organiser's' call.

Mr Albanese wrangled the crowd's support when he told the rally he had convened a national cabinet meeting for Wednesday to specifically address the issue.

"We will talk about what we can do including as part of the national plan to end violence against women and children," he said.

Canberra rally
National cabinet will meet on Wednesday to specifically address the issue of violence against women. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

"To change that culture we need to change attitudes, we need to change the legal system - we need to change the approach of all governments.

"Because it's not enough to support victims.

"We need to focus on the perpetrators and focus on prevention."

The term "national emergency" carried legal connotations and was usually used to unlock funding and services for natural disaster responses, he said.

Senator Gallagher brushed off the crowd's jeers, saying it was an emotional issue and the prime minister had shown he was listening and taking the issue seriously by marching.

"This is a national crisis which deserves the attention, deserves everything we can do to end it, but it's not going to end overnight," she told reporters.

"We are dealing with deeply ingrained attitudes and stereotypes that in a sense place women in danger in this country."

Canberra rally
Anthony Albanese has addressed a rally in Canberra calling for action to end violence against women. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

She said the federal government had been working with state and territory counterparts on measures to address the problem, hinting at further support in the upcoming federal budget in May.

Violence against women "has been a crisis for some time", Ms Rishworth said as she expressed hope that renewed focus on the issue would be a catalyst for change.

"What I hope is this national conversation will mean that there is sustained attention and sustained resolve across all areas of society, community, to say enough is enough."

A national plan that included early intervention and prevention programs with young men and boys who have experienced family and domestic violence in a bid to break the cycle of violence would take time to yield results, Ms Rishworth said.

Independent senator David Pocock called for men to step up to help women feel safer, including by calling out misogynistic comments from their mates.

Men needed to be included and educated to respect women, Independent MP Dai Le said, as she pointed to the proliferation of violent content online.

"We question why there's an increase in violence against women or in society," she told the ABC's Insiders program on Sunday.

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