SYDNEY - Violence against women is an "epidemic" in Australia, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Saturday, as thousands attended rallies in Sydney and other major Australian cities urging tougher laws on gendered violence.

The rallies were spurred by a wave of violence against women that the government says has seen a woman killed every four days this year. The rallies also followed a mass stabbing in Sydney this month that killed six people, including five women.

Protesters demanding stronger criminal laws gathered in Sydney, capital of New South Wales state, for a rally and then a march that closed city streets. Some protesters carried signs that read "Respect" and "No More Violence".

In South Australia's capital Adelaide, it was estimated around 3,000 people rallied at the city's parliament building.

Prime Minister Albanese said he would be part of a rally in the national capital Canberra on Sunday.

"I will walk with women across Australia to say enough is enough," Albanese said on social media platform X.

"Violence against women is an epidemic. We must do better."

In Adelaide, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said "a national emergency response" was needed to tackle the issue.

"Women are sick and tired of being told 'yes it's bad but there's not much we can do,'" Hanson-Young said, according to a spokesperson.

Similar protests were scheduled across the weekend in state capitals Perth, Western Australia; Melbourne, Victoria; Hobart, Tasmania; and Brisbane, Queensland.

Gender-based violence is an ongoing issue in Australia, a nation of 26 million. In 2021, tens of thousands rallied over allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in some of the nation's highest political offices.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by Tom Hogue)