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Rape Culture

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 4 March 2021

Tags: Parliament

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter - rape culture.

It has been a harrowing few weeks for the women and girls of Australia. We have brought this on as a matter of public importance today because we believe it is important to give women and girl victims of sexual assault, harassment, humiliation at the hands of men a voice in this place.

I believe there is a level of incandescent rage in our community across the country now. Pardon my truncated French, but the women and girls of Australia are effing sick of this. We want it to end. It must end. It began with the mighty Grace Tame, our Tasmanian Grace Tame, becoming Tasmania's first Australian of the Year. I acknowledge Grace's courage, her strength and her leadership and a shining light that she is for women and girls in this country.

It was an image of Grace Tame standing next to the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, that inspired former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins to come forward with an allegation of a rape that took place in March in 2019. What Brittany Higgins was subject to, in her own words, at the hands of the Prime Minister was victim blaming, the Prime Minister's office briefing against her partner, and the Prime Minister himself diminishing Ms Higgins by constantly referring to her as 'Brittany' as if she were a child.

Then late last week, an allegation of the most serious and egregious nature against the highest law officer in the country. Every person is entitled to the presumption of innocence, no matter who they are and where they come from in our community and we must bear that in mind. After our late sitting last night, I got home and watched the entire interview of the current Attorney-General, Christian Porter, and it did nothing to diminish my fury. Here is a man who could not remember whether he had a girlfriend at the time, but he could remember some prawns that were on the dinner table. I believe his position is untenable and the question women will be asking themselves now is: is a man's career more important than a woman's life in Australian politics?'

I have noted across social media and in the media in recent days how very triggered Australian women and girls have been by the events of the past few weeks. We all have a story. Every one of us has story, either of being assaulted, harassed or humiliated in our workplace, or being diminished because of our physical appearance, and we are sick of it.

We have all been subject to casual sexism. We have all been subject to misogyny. It has to end. I want to quote now from Grace Tame's incredible speech to the Press Club yesterday, where a number of female journalists were on the blink of tears, while they were asking her questions. I take this opportunity to thank the women of the press gallery, women like Samantha Maiden, Laura Tingle, Louise Milligan - these incredible, gutsy women who have been our voice - and wonderful Grace Tame, who had the courage to stand up and whose courage led to law change in Tasmania. I acknowledge Attorney-General Ms Archer, who brought forward law reforms so that victims of sexual abuse could be given a voice.

During her contribution yesterday at the Press Club, Grace said:

After all of this it became quite obvious to me why child sex abuse remains ubiquitous in our society. While predators retain the power to get what they want, to objectify their targets through free speech, the innocent survivors and bystanders alike are burden by shame-induced silence.

On a path forward, she says:

It is so important for our nation, the whole world in fact, to listen to survivor stories. Whilst they are disturbing to hear, the reality of what goes on behind closed doors is more so, and the more details we omit out of the fear of disturbance, the more we soften these crimes, the more we shield predators from the shame that is then misdirected to their targets. When we share we heal, reconnect, and grow, both as individuals and as a united, strengthened collective. History, lived experience, the whole truth, un-sanitised and unedited is our greatest learning resource. It is what informs social and structural change. The upshot of allowing predators a voice, but not survivors, encourages criminal behavior.

She goes on:

1. How we invite, listen and accept the conversation and lived experience of child sexual abuse survivors. You have heard me say it before. It all starts with the conversation.

2. What we do to expand our understanding of this heinous crime, in particular, the grooming process through both formal and informal education.

3. How we provide a consistent national framework that support survivors and their loved ones, not just in their recovery, but also to disempower and deter predators from action.

We have a collective responsibility in this place - men and women - across politics, to stand up against rape culture, to speak up against casual sexism and misogyny, and to give voice to women who do not have a voice. We have to take a sledgehammer to the patriarchy.