South West women hold vigil outside Forrest MP's office

United: Women of all ages join together at a weekly vigil outside the federal member for Forrest Nola Marino's office. Picture: supplied.
United: Women of all ages join together at a weekly vigil outside the federal member for Forrest Nola Marino's office. Picture: supplied.

It has now been a year since a group of women began a weekly vigil outside the office of the federal member for Forrest Nola Marino.

Originally starting from the March4Justice event, the now called Alongside (women's action group) wanted to keep the issue of gender equality, sexual harassment and domestic and family violence in the public sphere.

Group member Jodi Larke said it also wanted to see the federal MP advocate for group concerns in parliament.

"We have more recently been asking for more of the recommendation which came out of the Set the Standard report," she said.

Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces was released by the federal government in November 2021 and outlined how 51 per cent of parliament workers experienced at least one incident of bullying, sexual harassment or actual or attempted sexual assault.

Ms Larke said Ms Marino spoke to the group during its first vigil last year, but said very little as she was "busy".

"Since then we have not seen Nola or any of her staff in the whole year," Ms Larke said.

Ms Marino told the Mail that as female politician and assistant minister, she never tolerated abusive or inappropriate behaviour in any workplace and "never would".

"Canberra is a robust environment, but in order to be productive, it needs to be respectful, and I expect everyone to maintain that same standard," she said.

"As the first female representative for the seat of Forrest, I hope this provides an example to young women throughout the South West that we can achieve our goals, including in the political sphere.

"This is a conversation I have at all levels, and I continually encourage women to take on leadership roles, whether that be in business, government or in their local communities.

"I support the right of all people to demonstrate and make their voices heard, as I support the measures the Government has taken, and continues to take, to eliminate inappropriate behaviour and provide a better working environment."

March4Justice South West organiser Aoife McGreal met with Ms Marino in March 2021 and at the time said "it felt like another excuse to kick the can down the line."

Ms Marino did not respond to the Mail after this meeting.

Alongside: A group of women have been holding a vigil every Friday for a year, advocating for women's rights. Picture: supplied.

Alongside: A group of women have been holding a vigil every Friday for a year, advocating for women's rights. Picture: supplied.

Ms Larke said members would possibly stop the vigil if someone spoke to them and listened to their concerns.

"It is affecting so many people and it feels like the government is not prioritising it, when women are dying every week from domestic violence," she said.

Ms Larke said the issue was apolitical and that it didn't matter who was in parliament, things still needed to change.

Usually the vigil sees about four to 10 women each week, but for the anniversary Ms Larke said there were about 20 people who came to support the cause.

"We have great conversations with each other, as well as people walking passed on the street and other groups have formed as a result as well," she said.

"It has been successful for a year because everyone enjoys it and they are passionate."

On a personal level, Ms Larke said she was passionate about improving gender equality to ensure her daughters did not experience the same harassments she did growing up.

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