"It has taken quite a personal toll." Grace Tame on the mental load of being in the spotlight.

The following contains details of sexual assault and child abuse, which may be triggering for some readers.

Earlier this year, 26-year-old Tasmanian Grace Tame was crowned Australian of the Year for her campaign and advocacy work for survivors of sexual assault.

Within the space of ten months, Tame has leveraged the platform and promoted important conversations and education on grooming and sexual assault. 

And with the spotlight and constant retelling of her story, it is understandable that the experience of being Australian of the Year 2021 may have taken a toll.

Watch: Grace Tame's speech as she is named the 2021 Australian Of The Year. Post continues below.

Video via ABC News.

On Monday night on ABC's Australian Story, Tame, and those around her, spoke at length about not only what she has achieved within such a short space of time, but also the mental load associated with it. 

"With this award comes a huge level of media scrutiny, as well as a level of responsibility to represent a particular cause," said journalist Nina Funnell.

Tame recently faced criticism from a few media commentators suggesting she was "antagonising many Australians with her increasingly political interventions." But it's the injustices she has witnessed during her time as Australian of the Year that Tame has always focused on.

"If I did not stand up and speak truth to power, which is what I have always done, I would be a hypocrite."


Tame says she has been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis not made easy by the fact that she has continued to share the details of her trauma during interviews and meeting people.

But there is no denying that Tame's vulnerability has helped countless people come forward with their own stories.

Just this year, Tame has received thousands of messages from people sharing their own experiences of sexual assault. She has now had to employ a trauma-informed psychologist who specialises in sexual assault counselling to deal with and respond to all of the disclosures. 

Her voice has also inspired rallies across the country, Brittany Higgins to feel confident to come forward with her own story, and the calls from women, and many men, across the country that enough is enough.

"People flock to her, people are drawn to her, because of the way she speaks, the way she conveys her message," Tame's close friend Maddison Cutler said on Australian Story.

"She's so fiercely strong whilst being incredibly vulnerable all at the same time, and I think that's why so many people can connect with her."

Image: Getty. Tame has also lost count of the number of speeches she has given throughout this year.


Needless to say, there's been a lot - including her acceptance of the Australian of the Year Award, speaking at the National Press Club, and being a keynote speaker at a UN Women Australia event.

But a speech that will particularly stick with Tame is the one she gave at St Michael's Collegiate School in Hobart this year: the place where she was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of a maths teacher, 43 years her senior.  

Image: Getty. Until August 2021, Tame hadn't set foot on the campus in years. 


"For nearly 20 years, from 1992 to 2011, a serial paedophile was able to operate within these walls in plain sight by way of calculated psychological manipulation," she said to the room full of senior students and staff.

"After I reported, even though the police found him with 28 multimedia files of child exploitation material on his computer - including a trophy file of other students, topless - many blamed me for what happened. Perpetrators don’t just groom individuals. They groom everyone in order to get what they want; fellow staff members, parents, friends, extended family: no one is immune to grooming."

"Evil thrives in silence. Silence and inaction," she said. "As we know, this institution is no exception. I am one of at least five girls who were targeted, conditioned and exploited here. But for all that I lost here, I have gained it all and more in return simply by being able to share in this moment with you," she finished.

Listen to The Quicky. Grace Tame: The girl who won't be silenced. Post continues after audio.


There have been many people close to Tame that she credits for helping her through the media storm. One week before her nomination for the Tasmanian of the Year Award, which led to Australian of the Year, Tame met her now partner Max Heerey.

"He's got the biggest, biggest heart. I never in my life thought I would ever find this after everything that I went through," Tame said.

For Tame, it's not necessarily finding trust in men the challenge now, but being able to trust herself and her intuition. 

"The biggest hurdle for me, or the biggest challenge for me has been learning to trust myself again. I might present as strong, but I have days where... you know. I don't feel very strong, that's for sure," she said on The Project on Monday night.

Max also spoke of Tame's strength and determination, especially amid being in the limelight.

"It's hard to explain just how hard Grace has worked, like, every single day, constantly," he said to Lisa Wilkinson.

"I think I'm allowed to say that it has taken quite a personal toll on her as well. But she's just kept going and going, and I'm so proud of her."


Now in just two months, Tame's time as a current Australian of the Year will end. Speaking on Australian Story, she hopes the closure of this chapter will give her the time to recharge and restore after such a whirlwind of a year.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited by the thought of having a good sleep and maybe a little bit of holiday.”

But this isn't the end of Grace Tame's advocacy work. Next month, she will launch the Grace Tame Foundation. The ultimate goal is to end child sexual abuse and create an agreement between each of the Australian jurisdictions on legal definitions of consent and grooming, ensuring the voices of survivors are heard.

As Grace said in her Australian of the Year speech: "I remember him saying, 'don't make a sound.' Well, hear me now. Using my voice amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced."

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. Support is always available via Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia