Why Lismore women can't march to Reclaim the Night
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, tomorrow, for the first time in the event's history, there will be no march. Organisers simply cannot afford the increasing traffic control costs now associated with public street marches.
Rather, there will be a Reclaim The Night event with speakers, stalls, and kids activities at Lismore City Hall. An event committee member from the Lismore Women Health and Resource Centre said organisers were 'deeply distressed' that women could no longer march, and feared the event would lose numbers.
"Now more than ever we need the numbers. We believe the fact that we can no longer afford to march is taking away more of our (women's) civil rights,” she said.
"Reclaim the Night is a conciousness and awareness raising campaign. It needs to be seen,” she said.
"But we can't justify the expense for traffic control when we need every cent for the Women's and Children Refuge.”
"The fact that the traffic control costs could not be waived only promotes hopelessness,” she said.
The event's organising committee, comprising of members of local women's services, met in July to discuss the fact that its $1000 budget would not cover ticketed traffic control workers required by Highway Patrol.
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. Previously traffic control was done by volunteers who did not need a formal traffic control ticket.
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.
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.
Reclaim the Night
Thursday, October 27, 4:30PM to 7:30PM
Lismore City Hall.