Reclaim The Night march can't afford the cost of safety

Mary Willis with Reclaim the Night co-ordinator Tracey Devine,  Christine Henry and  Diane Latta.
Mary Willis with Reclaim the Night co-ordinator Tracey Devine, Christine Henry and Diane Latta. Marc Stapelberg

SINCE 1988, Northern Rivers women have taken to the streets of Lismore CBD to join the global Reclaim The Night movement - to march against sexual violence and celebrate the freedom of walking together without the threat or fear of violence.

However, for the first time in the event's history, Reclaim The Night Committee members are unsure how they can shoulder the burden of traffic control expenses associated with road closures.

The event's organising committee, comprising of members of local women's services, met today to discuss the fact that its $1000 budget would not cover ticketed traffic control workers required by Highway Patrol.

Lismore Women Health and Resource Centre manager Mary Willis said, "We are now looking at ways to work with the requirements around ensuring safety -- if we are able to march -- as we have worked with authorities before with a successful and safe march."

Ms Willis said additional funding may have to come from associated community organisations before July 30.

In order to ensure safety, any road march now requires three ticketed traffic controllers on every closed street boundary as well as staff at the beginning and at the end of the parade.

In the past, the march, which attracts over 200 people to the CBD, only required the assistance of Highway Patrol vehicles.

Reclaim The Night Committee members commented on the irony of the dilemma -- that now more than ever there was a need to march the streets to ensure women were safe (from violence) on the streets, yet can't burden the costs associated with street safety.

In recent years, Lismore Reclaim the Night has encouraged men to participate. This year they are hoping to partner with schools for increased grassroots participation and awareness.

Lismore was also one of the first rural areas in NSW to take part in the annual event. The first Reclaim the Night in Australia took place in 1978 and followed similar rallies which had been held in Europe and America.

With statistics showing that one in three women will be assaulted in their lifetime, the importance of this awareness raising event has not decreased over time.

Topics:  domestic violence march rape sexual assault sexual violence traffic control

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