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May 4, 2009 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Reclaim The Night

Reclaiming The Night (RTN) is a semi-annual march through the central entertainment district of Wellington, to proclaim women’s rights to go out unimpeded, without chaperone by a man, without the fear of molestation, rape or abuse by the men they encounter during their night out. The concept was one developed in the USA, but migrated to New Zealand by women returning from their OE.

The marches began during the Eighties after a spate of rapes of women returning home after a night out, which occurred on the foothills of Mt Victoria. The original marches threaded from Courtney Place, up into the suburban streets and on into the town belt land of Mt Victoria, reclaiming those spaces as safe walkways for women.

After nearly a decade of inactivity, a spate of rapes around Wellington prompted a group of collectives, meeting at the Women’s Centre in Victoria St, to begin the marches again. Representatives from VUW Women’s Group, Rape Crisis, the Women’s Centre, and some other independent women’s collectives formed a working group, which ran the first march on Friday, 26 November, 1999. Chaffers Park at 8pm, marching through Courtney Place and down Manners St and Cuba Mall to finish at Frank Kitts Park (via Civic Square), where there was stage and a collection of speakers and performers who had volunteered their time for the night. Marchers carried collection buckets which circulated during the performances, and the money raised was used to fund survivor support services provided by women’s collectives in the Wellington region.

This was such a successful and well-received event that the RTN collective reconvened to run another, on Friday, 24 November, 2000. This time the march route began in Civic Square at 8pm, finishing at Blue Note Bar in Cuba St for an after-party beginning at 10pm.

Subsequent years saw marches on Friday 23 November 2001, Friday 22 November 2002, and Friday 21 November, 2003. Then there was a hiatus for a couple of years, with the funding for the Women’s Centre jeopardised by a redevelopment proposal for the Chews Lane area, proposed by the Willis Bond Group of companies. Eventually the Women’s Centre was split up. It was a very stressful time for the women’s organisations involved, some of which relocated to 84 Willis St, some to the Arts Centre in Webb St, as WCC shoe-horned the agencies into Council-administered accommodation.

In 2006, a short-lived collective was put together with representatives from VUW Women’s Group, Rape Crisis, Women’s Refuge, and a local anarcha-feminist collective. This resulted in a very successful march on Thursday, 23 November 2006, beginning in Waitangi Park (the newly re-named Chaffers Bay park) and culminating in an after-party at Our Bar in Cuba St, once again with performers who volunteered their talent.

During the times that a march was not run in Wellington, there were marches run by collectives in Auckland, which accommodated carloads of Wellington feminists who attended with banners and contributed to the seminars and workshops run around the outside of the march itself; in 2005, this culminated in Aotea Square, and included a space for men against rape, who held their own de-brief after the march.

The march collective has been in abeyance since October 2007, as other events over-ran the majority of the active core. A new collective is being developed, if anyone would like to get involved, please contact Kassie Hartendorp, the VUW WRO for 2009, or e-mail


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Comments (2)

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  1. owlzy says:

    What I really don’t get is why they march through the most crowded, well lit, and well patrolled, by both official (Walk Wise, the Police) and unofficial (private bouncers and security people) streets and act like it is this huge coup.

    Start there, for publicities sake sure, but then take your walking to the outer areas, the alleys and side streets where people actually do get raped, murdered, assaulted. Marching down Cuba St is a bit like lighting candles after turning your lights out for earth hour, you know, just a tad asinine.

  2. Kimberly Dobson says:

    Previous marches around the world have not only marched through well lit areas.
    They have also marched through alleyways and walk ways reclaiming the territory and representing a claim for women’s basic human right to live in freedom from discrimination and fear of violence.

    Marches have also raised money for different organisations such as Rape Crisis and awareness – women should like men be able to walk through the streets without fear.

    Doing nothing and thus silently accepting women’s violence is asinine.

    Reclaim the Night = a positive way to front violence and inequality in our communities and to raise awareness and support for community groups.

    Anyone interested in getting involved in the event please contact me at as Women’s Group are organising a public meeting during August to begin organising a Wellington March

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