This post deals with sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
Canberra is known to many Australians by a host of condescending nicknames: The Bush Capital, The Planned City, The Berra, a hole. I’d like to coin a new one: The City of Little Consequence.
I was squirming with excitement as we drove alongside a bone-dry Lake George, knowing that in about 45 minutes time I would finally arrive for my first day at university.
As my parents pulled up at my new residential college, I had no concept of my own naivety, my presumption of collective innocence.
Swarms of 18-year-old children posing as adults descended on the campus in time for O-week.
Boys and girls from all over the country began peacocking around the grounds like not-so-noble savages vying for their place on the new social hierarchy. I was as intimidated as I was desperate to fit in.
I remember a sense of disassociation and disbelief as I tried my best to participate in a week of initiation events.
By 10am on the Thursday morning I was lying on my floor, pretending to be sick because I was so afraid of having Passion-Pop bottles duct taped to my hands and being forced to drink until they were empty. This was just the first activity scheduled for the annual ‘Girls’ Day In’.
My memories are hazy, as though my brain has tried to erase them to cope with the disappointment.
It took all but five days for me to realise that my efforts to escape the cult of the Sydney private schools had been in vain.
To fund my newfound love of ANU Bar, I quickly scored a job in hospitality at Parliament House serving banquets and buffets in the Members’ Guests Dining Room. Thus began my short career as a fly on the wall in what is, in my view, Australia’s most insidious social experiment, the Canberra Bubble.
Just as the privileged private school boys and girls could leave the norms of their homes to find in the ANU an opportunity to write their own rules, politicians and their staff are seemingly able to leave morality behind and act without fear of consequence.
A point made painfully clear when Scott Morrison had to refer to his wife for guidance on what it means to be sexually assaulted in your workplace.
What is it about the Canberra Bubble that enables this culture of entitlement? What drives the lack of accountability that is totally incongruous with the standard the rest of the population is expected to uphold?
I remember standing by a table, invisible in my apron, watching a senator pass around his phone, zoomed in on a picture of his new staffer’s breasts.
When I had graduated from the dining rooms and taken up a desk job, I remember being told to “wear a shorter skirt next time” as I bent over the bubbler, and that an older gentleman would “brush his teeth with my sh*t” as though that was exactly the sort of compliment I had been praying for.
I was one of the lucky ones.
Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. Post continues below.