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Summernats – Friend or Foe?

It has taken me a very long time to learn to like Canberra. Being born in Sydney and having spent a fair amount of time there throughout my life, I find it hard to like Canberra’s seemingly lack of pace and quietness. However, it has grown on me and I find that I am increasingly fond of it. There is, nevertheless, one part of Canberra I cannot bring myself to accept, like, or even downgrade the level of hate I feel for it – Summernats.

Summernats, as most of us Canberrans know, is the Summerly car festival held in Exhibition Park. It features events such as fireworks, vintage cars, and basically just racing each other to be the best car at the show. It injects about $12-$15 million dollars into the ACT economy annually, and the ACT government generally supports Summernats by granting them around $300,000. It’s a great event for Canberra, and attracts thousands of visitors over the Summer period.

So why does it suck for me and many women? How about how blatantly dangerous it is? There have been reports of rape, gang rape, sexual assault and drink spiking at Summernats. The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre received three callouts in 2007, although they believe the assault rate is higher due to women’s perceived reluctance to report straight after the assault. A few years ago, women were encouraged to attend a small area of Summernats where they could feel safe and chill out from all the male attention going around. However, that has been closed down. High security levels don’t stop men organising drunken ‘mobs’ and harrassing girls to remove their shirts. And even with the unbelievable amount of sexual harrassment going on and well-publicized attacks on women, Summernats defends itself airily and dismisses the claims of a dangerous environment as a result of any event with alcohol consumption. But there is no doubt that many men attend the event simply for the ‘booth babes’ and women.

I don’t know how others feel on it, and how women who regularly go to Summernats feel about it. But there’s an alarming element of acceptance that I find disturbing. On the ABC News, one report about the ‘mob’ in Summernats featured a young, pre-pubescent girl being asked about her views on the male attention. I remember being that age and being terrified of men, getting unwanted compliments and disgusting stares at the age of nine or ten. But all she had to say was, “Oh, you know… that’s just… men.”

My questions are as follows: Why are girls like that one so accepting of that attention? Why is this event now a sport in harrassing women? Why is Summernats still advertised as a family event? Why is the ACT government funding an event so dangerous to women? And why isn’t there a greater warning to women who go there, that you go at your own peril?

4 thoughts on “Summernats – Friend or Foe?

  1. The really unfortuante thing about this event is that there are women as well as men who immerse themselves in this culture… who by their actions perpetuate the cycle of men to seeing and treating women as glorified sex objects… It’s to the point that ordinary women can’t attend even these events without being seen as such…
    I certainly wouldn’t support the ACT econmony in supporting this event. I can think of far better ways to spend my money (and time).

  2. There are several severe reports of Rape and assault incorporating violence and then social and public deceiet occurring at Summer Nats over the years dating back to and before 1986, based on statements made by particular activity witnesses I believe a number of these offences were carried out by the same offender who is a regular and so called respected patron of the event, friends who were told shortly after the offence have offered affidavits and a report will be made to police shortly against this person by a woman who was seriously raped and violently assaulted by this particular man in 1986 at the age of 15,she is in possession of related photographs,she was asked not to report the incident by her mother for fear her father would shoot him and be imprisoned,she is diagnosed as suffering severe post trauma psychosis and related fear and psycological problems incl alcohol dependency, fear of social situations, nightmares,and severe depression, her parents placed her in this thugs care on a number of occasions and the abuse grew from unwanted attention in a very short period of time to the Rape offence. for further knowledge I can be contacted on 0413495642 or at I am a 64 y/old close friend /carer and sympothiser of the woman who is 40 nowand am in the process of documenting her life, her agonising story expands more each week as her life memories unfold, it is a miracle she has not taken her own life. This hopefully may help in your enquiries.

  3. PS. Any one with further related information for or on behalf of themselves personally or someone who has suffered similar circumstance please contact me on 0413495642 or at for preliminary advice. “REMEMBER- YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT AND YOU ARE NOT ALONE, TOGETHER THE VICTIMS CAN HELP PUT THESE OFFENDERS WHERE THEY BELONG”.

  4. I think it is because of money the government likes the amount of money in the economy. Frankly they would prefer to ignore what is going on because they don’t want the money flow to stop and not get votes from the people who support summernats.

    Rach you are right there are woman who immerse themselves in this culture and they have grown up with it and think it is okay. The sad fact about out world is that the rape of woman is kept a secret and is denied. We live in a patriarchal world where it seems to be okay to rape woman. They are oppressed in every way all over the world. So Action needs to be taken on this as it is a violation of human rights. I really don’t think the government in general really cares for human rights. I think that it is also hidden as part of being the National Capital and the ACT government does not want the rest of the country to know what is happening.

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