Australian women have been most effective, politically, when they have harnessed their collective rage and turned it into action. They need to do it again now.
Like many Australians, I was delighted when activist Grace Tame was named the 2021 Australian of the Year. Tame is a powerful advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse, drawing on her own experience of being groomed and abused by a paedophile when she was just 15.
Tame’s case was the catalyst for the creation of the #LetHerSpeak Tasmania campaign, which was created by journalist Nina Funnell in partnership with Marque Lawyers and End Rape On Campus Australia to overhaul gag laws that silenced victims of sexual abuse.
Watch: Grace Tame on the power of abuse survivors' stories. Post continues below.
Accepting her award, Tame declared she was:
"...using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced. Let’s make some noise, Australia."
Tame’s bravery inspired former political staffer Brittany Higgins to make some noise of her own. The revelation of her alleged sexual assault in a ministerial office and subsequent treatment by her employers has appalled observers.
Most recently, it has been alleged a man who is now a federal cabinet minister (revealed on Wednesday to be Attorney-General Christian Porter) raped a 16-year-old girl in 1988. The response that best reveals the prevailing political culture was when Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was sent a letter outlining the allegation, airily admitted he hadn’t read it. He added that because the minister has "vigorously denied" the allegation, there were "no matters" that required his attention.
In a defiant press conference on Wednesday, Porter denied the allegations. He refused to call for an inquiry or stand aside from his role, saying:
"If I stand down from my position as Attorney-General because of an allegation about something that simply did not happen, then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print."
To say Australian women are angry about the events of the past few weeks is an understatement. In a powerhouse address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Tame stressed the importance of turning that rage into action: