4 Need-To-Know Takeaways From Grace Tame And Brittany Higgins’ Powerful Speech

At least half of all women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or violence. That’s 1 in 2 that has been sexually harassed, 1 in 3 that has been physically abused and 1 in 5 that has been sexually abused. Let that sink in. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia.
Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins didn't hold back during their National Press Club address on Wednesday, drawing attention to pivotal changes that need to be implemented to address sexual harassment, assault and violence against women.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who wasn't in attendance but said he would be "paying attention", was at the centre of some of Higgins' comments, while Tame took aim at the federal government's current approach to legislation, preventative education funding and "spin tactics" that just pay lip service to the cause.
Here are four key takeaways from Higgins and Tame's powerful speech.

Brittany Higgins Blasts ScoMo's Daughter Remark

Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
Brittany Higgins address the National Press Club
In January last year, the Prime Minister was criticised after he said his wife, Jenny, clarified his perspective about allegations made by former Liberal staffer Higgins that she was assaulted by a government co-worker in 2019.
"She said to me, 'You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?'" Morrison told reporters at the time. "Jenny has a way of clarifying things."
During her address on Wednesday, Higgins said the PM's language had been "at times, admittedly offensive" over the past 12 months, but "his words wouldn’t matter if his actions had measured up".
"What bothered me most about the whole ‘imagine if it were our daughters’ spiel wasn’t that he necessarily needed his wife’s advice to help contextualise my rape (allegations) in a way that mattered to him personally," said Higgins.
"I didn’t want his sympathy as a father, I wanted him to use his power as Prime Minister. I wanted him to wield the weight of his office and drive change in the party and our parliament, and out into the country."
What Higgins is now looking for is tangible action as opposed to just words being uttered.

Grace Tame Calls For Three Big Changes

Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor Tame identified three "key asks to better our nation" going forward in addressing sexual violence against women.
She said the federal government's current approach "to social issues seems to consist of nothing but empty announcements, placatory platitudes, superficial last-minute acknowledgments and carefully staged photo ops".
Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
Grace Tame at the National Press Club in Canberra
Tame told the audience that the government's "spin tactics" won't hold any longer and some key changes need to take place.

1. For the government to take sexual violence more seriously

"I mean proactive, preventative measures — not these reactive, bandaid, electioneering stunts like acknowledging past harm at the last minute. If you don't take a strong stance to condemn abuse, you enable it."

2. An increase in funding for education on the prevention of sexual violence

"What we need in order to create real change is meaningful investment in our children. In their education. Because they are the future of our nation."

3. Consistent, nation-wide legislation

"Still today, perpetrators of abuse find safety in outdated, inconsistent legislation which both protects them and perpetuates social ignorance."

Brittany Higgins Responds To Complaints Process

In July last year it was announced that all 10 recommendations from the Foster Report would be implemented by the government, a historic set of reforms set to change how Parliament House responds to sexual assault.
One of these entailed an independent complaints mechanism, where a ‘Serious Incident Team’ is established to help resolve issues in a respectful, trauma-informed manner. This was designed to provide government staffers with a way to report bullying, sexual harassment or assault.
When asked on Wednesday about whether this new system would've made a difference to her experience, Higgins said it's still limited but would've been helpful when she was a ministerial staffer.
"It is only for serious complaints of what is deemed by a certain small team as serious complaints and it's into an all-of-parliament mechanism. So it's still quite limited in scope," she responded.
"I don't think it goes far enough... it's a step but it's not finalised in any way shape or form, but I acknowledge it would have likely assisted me."

Grace Tame Reveals 'Threatening' Phone Call

Tame said she was warned via a "threatening" phone call in August last year to not criticise the Prime Minister at a future public engagement.
She said a senior member of an organisation funded by the government was "asking for my word that I would not say anything damning about the Prime Minister on the evening of the next Australian of the Year awards".
"'You are an influential person. He will have fear,' they said. What kind of fear, I asked myself?'
"And then I heard the words 'with an election coming soon'. And it crystallised — a fear for himself and no-one else, a fear that he might lose his position or, more to the point, his power."
When quizzed by reporters after her speech, Tame chose not to disclose the identity of the person or the organisation.
Scott Morrison's office later issued a statement, saying the PM and his office had no prior knowledge of this alleged phone call and called for the person in question to apologise.
"The first the PM or PMO became aware of that allegation was during today’s Press Club speeches," Mr Morrison’s office said in the statement obtained by
"The PM has not and would not authorise such actions and at all times has sought to treat Ms Tame with dignity and respect.
"Ms Tame should always be free to speak her mind and conduct herself as she chooses. The PM has made no criticism of her statements or actions.
"While Ms Tame has declined to name the individual, the individual should apologise. Those comments were not made on behalf of the PM or PMO or with their knowledge.
"The PM and the government consider the actions and statements of the individual as unacceptable."
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.

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