• Hannah Ferguson

This IWD, how can we celebrate women while watching progress burn?

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

Tomorrow is International Women's Day.

This year, I can't bring myself to post to Instagram about the empowering women in my life.

To attend a breakfast and receive shallow praise and a goodie bag from the male guest lecturer.


Because our government is committed to misunderstanding the needs of our most vulnerable.

Because we have watched 4000 members of the Australian public share their story of sexual violence in the ten days since a petition emerged seeking to improve consent education in private schools.

Because, over the last month I've watched men in prominent positions, both in government and the press, defend Christian Porter's honour with everything that they have. It has not been the content of these statements that has rattled me, but the conviction and authority with which they articulate an unflinching belief in this man's innocence.

Because I have watched on as a deceased woman has had her psychiatric history picked apart, watched as she was subject to medical and psychological theories projected by conservative responders. Meanwhile, our alleged perpetrator gloated about the mental health treatment he would be afforded over the next fortnight of leave.

Women’s movements are fuelled by collective fury. The vicarious trauma we have been exposed to over the last month serves as a reminder of our need to forge ahead. Now is the time to harness our fury and transform it into action and agenda.

This year, International Women’s Day is a reminder to educate, empower and mobilise the women in our lives. To cherish what we have achieved, and to honour the movements before us through our present and future actions.

We owe it to survivors to give a fuck.

To watch.

To listen.

To call out, to call in.

In 2021, be absolutely explosive in responding to the systems and structures whose very function thrives on our denigration.

We owe it to ourselves.

This IWD, look beyond celebrating with breakfast in a blazer. We want to highlight some of the current movements in progress and the importance of maintaining and mobilising our collective anger.

Consent Education

In late February, former Kambala student Chantel Contos began a now viral online petition to reform and improve consent education in private schools. In the ten days following posting of the petition, the creator received more than 4000 graphic allegations of sexual assault.

Dozens of schools around Australia have vowed to take action in response to the petition, which has also amplified calls for a nationwide rollout of education around respectful relationships.

Sign the petition @ teachusconsent.com

Coercive Control Criminalisation

The Queensland Government has committed to making coercive control a crime within the current term of Parliament. Coercive control is a key indicator of behaviour which preambles partner homicide. The taskforce will be compiled this month and intends to report back to government in October of this year.

Currently, Tasmania is the only state in Australia to have criminalised some elements of the behaviour. However, there are plans in place to legislate against it in NSW, VIC, NT and SA.

Defamation Reform

In 2020, all Australian states agreed to defamation reform, including a defence of ‘public interest’. The defence will enable media to publish stories of sexual misconduct, particularly when alleged against public figures, if those organisations act ‘responsibly’ in their coverage.

This International Women's Day, commit to engagement.