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Rape Culture

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 4 March 2021

Tags: Parliament

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I cannot tell you how grateful I am to the Premier for his contribution just then. It is incredibly moving to somebody who has - the Greens were not planning to have this MPI today. However, what has happened over the last week to 10 days in federal parliament has been an overwhelming conversation - in workplaces, on the internet - from women all around Australia.

Like me - I think the most moving part of what has happened is this photo of young Brittany which gripped me because she just looks more like my daughter. You know, there she was, full of expectation and excitement and happiness at having landed the best job she could ever have dreamed of. All that intelligence, passion and commitment to her party and to her job and to exploring the world, and how everything changed for her and how she felt that she had to choose between what she says was her dream job and reporting the matter to the police.

Well, none of us here wants a woman of any age ever to have to make a choice like that. It does start about, as the Premier has said, a respect culture, a belief culture, a culture of listening, not shutting down. I am shocked as the Premier and Ms O'Connor. We are all talking about the culture, and I am shocked as a woman in my mid-50s at the changes I have seen in my lifetime.

As a young feminist, when I was 16 years old, I remember looking at where the world was. I had grown up and been to Catholic schools and was being raised in a Catholic family, but there was this tremendous sense of shaking the world up in the 1970s and 1980s for women, so that by the time we got to the mid -1980s, it was almost like most of the stuff had been given a red-hot shake and things were trending in a pretty reasonable direction. I felt that there was real change potential.

Then what happened was this massive pressure from that international global juggernaut pornography industry that has done everything it can to insinuate itself and its disgusting images and normalisation of a normative masculinity and femininity stereotypes so that 30 years later we have a highly sexualised image of women, girls and children.

We have young men exposed to a ubiquitous culture of pornography every time they pick up their phone to check what the weather is. It is impossible for young men to avoid seeing highly sexualised images of women so that casual misogyny and casual sexism are part of the everyday conversation and lingua franca for so many young people. It is normalised in every part of the culture that we work in, in the newspapers we read from and advertisements on television.

We are still using women in almost no clothes to sell us products; it is just standard. I was amongst a group of people who fought to take a billboard down in the late 1970s. We thought that was finished.

Ms Ogilvie - It is all online now.

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes. This is about setting standards and what is happening in the federal parliament and it does matter to us in Tasmania. It is a microcosm of what we all represent and expect. We expect a prime minister who is not a coward, who is prepared to speak up and listen and provide a space for women, but the silence from the Prime Minister has been damning. The fact is that there is still no commitment to an inquiry on a matter which is so grave, involving two rapes and the death of a woman. There is a circling of the wagons amongst male members in the Cabinet which is very disturbing to see.

We can work in Tasmania on changing our culture. We can be leaders. We have Grace who is leading the way for us all. I speak for every person in Tasmania who has seen Grace's speech to the Press Club or heard her speech as Australian of the Year, the strength and the power. The fact that Brittany Higgins saw her standing next to the Prime Minister and could understand the hypocrisy of that connection was the motivation for Brittany to speak. It has moved me to tears a number of times just thinking about what Grace has started.

She is starting to turn the corner but behind her she has the voices of so many Australian women who know that the time has come. She will not be silenced, we will not be silenced and the challenge for us as a parliament is to establish a culture of respect, a culture of listening, a culture of believing. I really hope that my daughters, I can feel confident that my daughters, can grow in a safer Tasmania.