The Mother of All Rallies – Canberra

Canberra was putting on a show for us when we arrived – still, sunny and from Redhill you couldn’t see the city for all the lovely bush that covers it. My uncle gave D. and I the grand tour and it was real, actual nerdy fun. We heard the carillion being played. We walked the new RG Menzies walk (or “Argy Menzies” as I prefer to think of him). We even went to Parliament House and admired its ’80s beauty – all the place needs is a bit more wacked-out Memphis furniture and it could be in a Aldomovar film.

But the next day, the “national day of action” for protesting proposed changes to legislation that would make employing an independent midwife to have your baby at home functionally illegal – well, the weather sucked. It pelted, was grey and freezing. We couldn’t see a damn thing through all the umbrellas, and could hear bugger all. I’m not great with crowds so stuck to the edges but D. went around and found friends she knew. Many midwives could not attend because they were busy with births. There were flight cancellations due to bad weather, so many women couldn’t make it. There were some so pregnant I wondered if we might have a demonstration of birthing on the spot (!) and the crowd felt earnest and Confest-y. I didn’t look like most, being conservatively dressed with a sensible hat.


This is not me

I hated the terrible music and the chai and the homemade signs. I wanted it to be less fringe-y, more focussed. The maternity coalition hadn’t organised anything very galvanising to occur other than to gather. No booked speakers, or professional music, or even coordinated action. This disappointed me, and I feel ungenerous for feeling that way – I’ve wondered if women demonstrate differently to men, more in the mode of passive resistance rather than the “punchy” demos (not literally) I’ve been on regarding changes to student unionism, East Timor etc. Does it really mean it’s less effective? Would the GetUp style of campaigning, Twitter, all the web 2.0 stuff – does that make more of a difference? Strategic lobbying with pollies in marginal seats?

From reading comments online this week I now feel pretty depressed about this issue. It seems to bring out the worst in people, like any discussion of abortion – people feel their positions so passionately they attack their opponents with real force and can’t find shared ground. Snark and imperiousness abound.


One thought on “The Mother of All Rallies – Canberra

  1. milica Fraser

    HI, I went along to the Canberra Rally. It was a big financial commitment to come from Melbourne but I really believed it was extremely important …& almost invisible to the iwder community as an issue.
    So many sleazy political bargaining events sneakily behind closed doors… by the time you become aware you have lost access to something valued or your rights, it is a massive war & years of effort to get them back.
    So I went to vote with my feet.
    Soggy feet.
    I did feel that there was a need for a PR manager to better hone the united message of the group. I meant to suggest this at the time.
    2009 people are used to polish in a clear message & have short attentions spans… not to mention politically apathetic in general.
    I sadly have to agree, impact wasdiluted by the varying approaches at the rally. The other group of Asian protesters wanting some killer prevented from coming into Australia – was screaming & annuoncing & chanting over us. I don’t think that helped us.
    Mostly I felt really angry that there was a reprieve made on the Friday by Nicola Ruxton, exempting independant midwives form the legislative changes/bill we were protestig againt.
    I think some/many? would have misinterpreted this as success.
    When really it is politiacl game playing to take te wind out ofth sails of those protesting. It just defers the loss of rights to when No one is watching. When the protesting group has lost momentum.
    I wondered at what the solution was… if this number of women protesting in the rain wasn’t getting the message through. What else can be done?
    What can rebuke the power of the Surgeons whispering in politicians ears. The palm pressing of mates. The industrialisation of birth wholesale which has been sucked up by the vast majority of our community?
    I don’t know.
    So I seek out those who retain birth knowledge,wisdom around carrying birthing nurturing women, men & their babies. Who hold the stories of other women who have naturally birthed & been born themselves as parents.. in a more gentle loving CARING environment.
    36% – 50% ceasar rate for Australian women.
    It’s a shocking time in history… which didn’t even make it on the evening news.


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