Australian of the Year Grace Tame has praised the courage of Brittany Higgins after the former Liberal Party staffer ended her silence on her alleged rape at Parliament House.
The advocate for survivors of sexual assault, particularly in institutional settings, was cited by Ms Higgins as her inspiration for speaking up.
“This case is another reminder for us all of the need for survivor voices to raise awareness and improve our collective understanding of sexual abuse,” Ms Tame posted on social media.
“I stand with survivors. I am an advocate for normalising the conversation and breaking the cycle of shame.
“This is Brittany’s story. Let us listen.”
Ms Tame said there was more work to do.
“We all have a seat at the table. We are all still learning,” she said.
Accepting her 2021 award in January, Ms Tame said predators manipulated us all.
“Family, friends, colleagues, strangers, in every class, culture and community,” she said.
Sharing a stage with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Ms Tame said every voice mattered.
“Just as the impacts of evil are borne by all of us, so too are solutions borne of all of us.”
Ms Tame’s support for Ms Higgins came as former PM Malcolm Turnbull said it was “inconceivable” that Mr Morrison’s office didn’t know about Ms Higgins’ alleged rape in Parliament House until last week.
Mr Morrison – who has apologised to Ms Higgins – has said his office found out about the alleged assault last week, and he was not aware if out until Monday.
But Mr Turnbull said that was hard to believe.
“I find it inconceivable that that wasn’t well known to at least key members of the Prime Minister’s staff,” he told the ABC on Wednesday.
“If it wasn’t, there was clearly an absolutely baffling breakdown in communications.”
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has known about the alleged rape for nearly two years.
Senator Reynolds has offered an unreserved apology for Ms Higgins for her handling of the complaint.
“No woman should have to go through what she has been through,” Senator Reynolds told parliament.
“That trauma that comes not just in the immediate aftermath of an assault, but in the many months and the many long years that follow it is what those of us in this building failed to acknowledge.”
Senator Reynolds said she deeply regretted calling a meeting with Ms Higgins in the place of the alleged attack.
The Minister refused to say whether she had ongoing contact with the alleged perpetrator after the incident.
Senator Reynolds said his employment was terminated for a “security breach” and she could not recall any contact with him since.
Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher told parliament the Minister was “wilfully negligent” as a minister and an employer and needed to take responsibility for the matter.
She said parliament was owed a detailed explanation from the minister.
The alleged rape has sparked calls for an independent complaints body to be established in Parliament House.
Crossbench MPs including Rebekha Sharkie say the complaints body needs to exist outside the Department of Finance.
“It has to be out of the system,” Ms Sharkie said.
“I don’t think sitting within Department of Finance with a minister still of the government of the day is really going to provide that level of confidence.”