Australian of the Year Grace Tame has taken a swipe at Prime Minister Scott Morrison after his speech opening a national online summit on women’s safety.
Mr Morrison used Monday’s keynote speech to reveal he has received hundreds of letters and emails he’s received from abuse survivors.
One was from a 74-year-old Queensland woman who spoke of 60 years of suffering following her rape at age 14.
“The letters and emails reflected on the anguish and lifelong burden of assaults at work, at school, at uni, on a sports team and at home where they should have been safer,” Mr Morrison said.
“Assaults that happened at any and every age. Trauma compounded by silence.
“Through all the letters and emails, I felt that rage, the dread and the frustration that our culture is not changing.”
But Ms Tame, who will be part of a panel at the summit on Tuesday, said sharing the stories was inexcusable.
“Scott has just finished his opening keynote address … in which he appropriated private disclosures from survivors to leverage his own image,” Ms Tame wrote.
“Gee, I bet it felt good to get that out.”
Her comments echoed what she said Mr Morrison said to her after her Australian of the Year acceptance speech – where she spoke in detail about her abuse at the hands of her school teacher.
“Right after I finished that speech and we’re in front of a wall of media? I s–t you not, he leant over and right in my ear, he goes ‘well, gee, I bet it felt good to get that out’,” she said in May.
During his speech on Monday, Mr Morrison also referred to his government’s reaction to Brittany Higgins’ complaint that she had been allegedly sexually assaulted by a staffer in Parliament House.
In response, Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer, tweeted that she “can’t match this government’s actions with the platitudes and warm sentiments they are all extending today”.
Earlier this year, Ms Higgins ignited a wave of anger and protests after going public with her alleged rape by a colleague in a minister’s office in 2019.
On Monday, she revealed she had had not even been initially invited to the summit. She thanked the ACT government and the Victims of Crime Commission who “kindly stepped in at the last minute” to invite her as a delegate.
Mr Morrison told the summit he wanted all women and girls to live without fear and labelled federal spending on the issue so far as a “down payment” on developing the next national plan.
“I want their humanity, their dignity, their innate worth as a human being and the freedoms to which they’re entitled to be respected,” he said.
The two-day summit will canvass topics including preventing and responding to violence, the specific needs of Indigenous women and financial independence.
The federal government points to amended sexual harassment laws, a two-year trial starting in October of payments for women fleeing violence, and changes to superannuation disclosure in family law proceedings, as evidence of progress.
But a groundswell of anger remains, including over a failure to implement all the changes recommended by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and a stalled departmental investigation into who knew what and when about Ms Higgins’ case.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese urged men to step up and hold themselves accountable.
“We have a long way to go, and we need federal leadership that is prepared, in both word and deed, to catalyse lasting change,” he said.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
Lifeline 131 114