Calls to stamp out harassment in Victoria

Women have taken to Melbourne's streets to protest harassment on International Women's Day.
Women have taken to Melbourne's streets to protest harassment on International Women's Day.

A Victorian hospitality worker was behind the bar when a drunken man pulled a knife, made threats and suggested sex, leaving her terrified.

The confrontation left the then-21-year-old woman feeling threatened in her own workplace and reluctant to return.

"The man I was serving had hidden a steak knife under his napkin, and once I refused to go home with him he held it up, waved it ... as an intimidation tactic," the victim recounted at a rally on International Women's Day in Melbourne.

"When he didn't get the answer he liked he turned it on himself and started playing with the knife. I never felt safe at that job again."

It's this type of violence the International Trade Union Confederation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions' protest in Melbourne is working to stamp out.

General Secretary Sharan Burrow called for action on domestic violence leave and other protections for Aussie workers at Queen Victoria Market on Thursday.

"The swipe of a pen of the federal government could change the lives of people," she said.

"We need domestic violence leave, we need the laws but we need leadership and an international standard of a convention."

Australian Council of Trade Unions' Sally McManus agreed, saying lives could be saved through the endorsement of the convention.

Three mobile billboards will travel through the city for the next couple days to put pressure on federal Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer and shed light on domestic violence.

Ms O'Dwyer told Sky News it was important to highlight harassment in the workplace and social media and cited the Me Too movement.

"A message that was really focused on Hollywood, but one that really has spread worldwide and jumped from social media into the mainstream media," she said.

The Turnbull government has not committed to 10 days paid domestic violence leave under the National Employment Standards.

At another Melbourne event on Thursday hundreds of women gathered outside the State Library of Victoria to speak about a range of topics including affordable housing, racism, sexual liberation, indigenous rights and accessible education.

A group of transgender people, including sex workers, took to the stage to the objection of organisers, before demanding they too be given a voice on International Women's Day.

Australian Associated Press