Thousands of Australians have rallied across the country calling on political leaders to make greater strides towards equality and ending violence towards women.

Crowds chanting “enough is enough” stood on the front lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, within a few hundred metres of where political leaders can make the changes protesters are seeking.

Thousands joined 40 rallies across Australia including in major cities Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart on Monday.

March4Justice organiser Janine Hendry called for equality and systemic change.

Ms Hendry rejected Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s offer to meet, instead asking him to visit protesters.

He did not, but about 15 coalition MPs and senators went to hear speeches.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese attended the rally with a contingent of colleagues, along with the Greens and independents.

Signs including “we are marching for everyone’s daughters”, “stop violence against women” and “it’s time for men to change” were visible in the crowd.

Those signs could be cemented in the nation’s history, with attendees encouraged to leave them at the National Library of Australia for a future exhibition.

People were also encouraged to head to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, to sign a book which will also feature in a public display.

Protesters handed a petition backed by 94,000 people to Labor MP Tanya Plibersek and Greens senator Larissa Waters, to present to parliament.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins who a hand in kick-starting the movement, after she went public with claims she had been raped by a colleague at Parliament House, made a rousing speech to thousands of people at the Canberra March4Justice.

“For so long it felt like the people around me only cared because of where it happened and what it might mean for them,” she told the crowd.

“It was so confusing because these people were my idols. I had dedicated my life to them. They were my social network, my colleagues and my family. 

“And suddenly they treated me differently. I wasn’t a person who had just gone through a life-changing traumatic event, I was a political problem.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil had a clear message: “Enough is enough”.

“We say to the men inside this place who are drunk on power, and those around the country who yield their power more privately – don’t think you have, or you will, get away with it,” she said.

The crowd is calling for an independent inquiry into Attorney-General Christian Porter, who rejects allegations he raped a woman in 1988 when they were teenagers.

Licia Heath travelled from Sydney to attend the Canberra protest.

She runs not-for-profit Women for Election that helps women run for public office.

Ms Heath doesn’t expect the issue to disappear for the government.

“The public is on to it and they are not looking away,” she told AAP.

“And that’s when change happens. The behaviour’s not new, what’s new is the public’s reaction.”

Australian Associated Press