Culture

LATEST: Australia’s cultural reckoning

This time, we will not stay silent.

By Olivana Smith-Lathouris

Culture

This time, we will not stay silent.

By Olivana Smith-Lathouris

For women around Australia, the last few months have seen a relentless escalation in the fight to address sexual violence in the workplace, the community and the home.

If it feels like the news is invading your brain space and draining you emotionally, if it’s making you stumble and leaving you in shock on a daily basis – then you’re not alone. So many Australian women are feeling tired and overwhelmed, buoyed and angry all at the same time. We’re in this together.

But when the news is moving at such an almighty pace, it’s easy to miss things, to lose track and feel confused. This story is so big, so important, so impactful for every Australian woman, however, that we all want to be up to date. At the same time, however, it’s necessary and brave to take some space from this emotionally gruelling public conversation when you need to.

Enter: Future Women. On this page we commit to covering, relentlessly, the story of Australian women’s uprising to demand justice. From major breaking news, to individual women’s experiences, from the political response to ideas for policy reform. Together we’re going to stay angry, stay focused, and keep up the pressure until something changes.

The new laser-like focus on sexual harassment and assault in the nation’s parliament and beyond began when a former political staffer came forward with her story of rape allegedly perpetrated against her in a Ministerial office in Australian Parliament House. The spotlight on Australia’s culture of sexual violence against women has grown brighter than ever.

Brittany Higgins’ story ignited a movement which has since seen several members of Parliament, including the Attorney-General, accused of sexual assault, rape, and workplace harassment, rocking the senior-most levels of Australian politics. Mass demonstrations have been held across Australia calling for legislative and systematic change to better protect survivors of sexual assault and younger generations have begun to amplify their voices around consent education in schools.

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains details and references of sexual violence, sexual assault, rape and child sex abuse which some readers may find distressing or triggering.

Follow all the latest news and updates

7 June – ABC to pay $100,000 for Porter’s mediation costs

The ABC’s managing director says $100,000 will be paid to Christian Porter’s lawyer for mediation costs.

David Anderson also revealed that the national broadcaster spent $680,000 defending itself against a now-defunct defamation claim lodged by the former attorney-general in March.

Mr Anderson also reaffirmed that the ABC stands by the article that prompted the action.

“This matter has been settled. Mr Porter has fully released the ABC from all claims,” Mr Anderson said. “I will say the ABC has not issued an apology. The ABC stands by its journalism. The article in question is still online, it remains unchanged and available for everyone to see it.”

4 June – Former defence minister claims stress from Higgins ordeal put her in hospital

Former defence minister Linda Reynolds has told Senate Estimates that sustained attacks from Labor over her response to Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations put her in hospital.

During a heated exchange in Senate Estimates, Senator Reynolds suggested for the first time that it was the tumult surrounding her response to Ms Higgins’ claims, and not a pre-existing heart condition, which forced her to take medical leave.

The senator’s handling of the matter came under intense scrutiny after revelations that Ms Higgins was summoned to a meeting regarding the matter in the same office where she was allegedly attacked. It was later revealed that she referred to Ms Higgins as a “lying cow” in her office after those comments were leaked to the media.

Shortly thereafter Senator Reynolds took medical leave and changed portfolios upon her return.

4 June – Brittany Higgins hospitalised over concerns for her welfare

Brittany Higgins is in hospital following months of intense political pressure, The Guardian reports.

The former Liberal staffer was admitted to hospital last Thursday night amid concerns for her welfare, months after she publicly alleged that a colleague raped her in Parliament House in 2019.

Her partner, David Sharaz, told Guardian Australia she was recovering “and receiving the support she needs after months of sustained political pressure”.

 

1 June – Friend of woman who alleged Porter had raped her threatens to sue him

A friend of the woman who claimed she had been raped by Christian Porter decades ago is now threatening to sue the former attorney-general.

Jo Dyer, who brought an action that saw one of Mr Porter’s barristers dropped from the now-defunct case, accused the MP of “continuing defamatory comments of me”.

Porter accused Dyer of being coached by Four Corners journalist Louise Milligan after admitting in court that she had deleted communications between the two “partly from [her] advice”.

On Tuesday, Ms Dyer released a statement accusing Mr Porter of “twice [impugning] my honesty and integrity.”

“This afternoon Marque Lawyers sent a second concerns notice to Mr Porter. He should be on notice that if I launch legal proceedings, I tend to see them through to their conclusion.”

Future Women has not seen either concerns notice.

May 31 – Porter, ABC at odds after defamation action dropped

The ABC has fired back at Christian Porter over a press conference where he accused the national broadcaster of a “humiliating backdown”.

The former attorney-general seized on the ABC’s decision to add an editor’s note to an online article alleging that an unnamed cabinet minister had been accused of rape as evidence of regret.

The note, published after Mr Porter dropped his defamation case, states that “both parties accept that some readers misinterpreted the article as an accusation of guilt against Mr Porter. That reading, which was not intended by the ABC, is regretted.”

Shortly after that press conference the ABC released a statement rejecting claims that it was a capitulation.

 

“The ABC stands by the importance of the article, which reported on matters of significant public interest, and the article remains online,” the statement reads.

“The ABC stands by Louise Milligan, one of Australia’s foremost and most awarded investigative journalists, and all our journalists in their independent and brave reporting on matters about which Australians have a right to be informed.”

Read the full statement here.

May 31 – Christian Porter drops defamation case against the ABC

Christian Porter has discontinued defamation action against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan.

In a statement announcing the news, the national broadcaster said it has agreed to pay costs of mediation but will not be required to pay any damages to Mr Porter.

It comes four days after star barrister Sue Chrysanthou SC was forced off the case due to a potential conflict of interest.

The former attorney-general is expected to speak later today.

May 27 – Christian Porter’s star barrister forced to stand down from ABC defamation case

Christian Porter’s star barrister, Sue Chrysantou SC, has been forced to stand down in his high-profile defamation case against the ABC.

Justice Thomas Thawley ruled that she should stand aside due to a conflict of interest which could present a “danger of misuse”.

The hearing was brought by Jo Dyer, a friend of the woman who alleged Christian Porter raped her in the late 1980s.

Chrysanthou and Dyer met late last year to discuss an article in the Australian newspaper about an ABC Four Corners episode Dyer featured in. Chrysanthou maintains she received no confidential information but Justice Thawley ruled that it was, and that it is “relevant to defamation proceedings brought by Mr Porter”.

 

May 26 – It’s been a massive 24 hours in Canberra with some major developments in the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins. 

We’ve broken it all down for you.

May 13 – NSW MP Gareth Ward steps down pending investigation, denies wrongdoing

NSW Families Minister Gareth Ward has released a statement identifying himself as the subject of a police investigation into 2013 sexual violence incidents.

In a statement he said,

“Today I have been made aware by a journalist of an investigation into me by NSW Police.

I have not been contacted by police in relation to any allegations.

I deny any wrongdoing.

Until this matter is resolved, it is appropriate I stand aside from my role as Minister. I will also remove myself from the Liberal Party room.

I will not be making any further comment at this time.”

In a separate statement, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she learned of the allegations via media reports and supports Mr. Ward’s decision to temporarily stand aside.

May 13 – NSW MP under investigation for alleged sexual violence

A 39-year-old NSW government MP is being investigated for sexual violence incidents reported to have occurred in 2013.

In a statement, NSW Police said Strike Force Condello has been established to investigate the claims.

At this stage, the MP has not been named.

May  11 – billions for women in the federal budget

Seven months after the Commonwealth was criticised for allocating a measly $240 million towards women, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced a $3.4 billion dollar package for women’s economic security, health and safety.

We’ve combed through the budget papers so you don’t have to, to find out what was really in it for women… and what’s still missing.

Read more: 5 Things The Budget Did For Women, and 5 Things It Didn’t

May 6 – Christian Porter wants ABC’s defamation defence struck out

Former Attorney-General Christian Porter is fighting to have the ABC’s defence against his defamation claim kept from the public.

In March, he launched legal action against the ABC and Louise Milligan for a February article alleging that an unnamed Cabinet Minister had been accused of rape in 1988.

At time of publishing, NSW Police had discontinued its investigation into the matter. The alleged victim withdrew her statement and took her life in June 2020.

The matter returns to court on May 14.

April 20 – Government pulls consent videos following criticism

Following immediate criticism, the Federal Government pulls the ‘milkshake’ and ‘shark’ videos from the Good Society website.

The two videos – part of a $3.7 million taxpayer-funded campaign – were among the most heavily criticised for their attempt to address the topic of consent.

“Anyone with even the tiniest bit of knowledge can see that these materials don’t meet the national standards for the prevention of sexual assault through education. These resources provide incorrect and harmful information. They must be replaced.” – Sharner Bremner, End Rape on Campus Australia Founder and Director

 

April 19 – Australian consent education campaign lambasted for ‘bizarre’ milkshake video and misinformation

A series of videos included as part of the Government’s ‘Good Society’ website come under fire with experts and public commentators blasting the content as being “confusing”, “unhelpful” and “cringeworthy”.

The videos avoid any use of the words ‘sex’, ‘assault’ or ‘rape’ and instead use a series of metaphors to illustrate issues around sexual assault and consent. One of the videos depicts a girl covering a boy’s face in ice-cream after he refuses to drink her milkshake – an obscure nod to the concept of consent and sexual assault.

“Trying to talk about sex without actually talking about sex isn’t helpful. We need to be specifically talking about consent in an intimate and sexual relationship.”—Dr Jacqui Hendriks, sexual health academic at Curtin University

 

April 14 – Government launches new teaching resource focused on consent for school students

The government launches ‘The Good Society’ website – an online resource for teaching consent in schools as part of the Respect Matters Program.

The website includes more than 350 videos, digital stories, podcasts and other materials are made available free to teachers, students and families designed to “support respectful relationships education in all Australian schools”.

April 13 – Christine Holgate gives testimony claiming she was ‘bullied’ out of her job

Former CEO of Australia Post, Christine Holgate gives explosive evidence at a Senate Committee Hearing, accusing the current CEO, Lucio Di Bartolomeo of having her stood down unlawfully under the public direction of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Ms Holgate was stood down from her position after revelations the organisation had spent close to $20,000 on four Cartier watches for executives who “deserved” to be rewarded.

“I lost my job, a job that I loved, because I was humiliated by our prime minister for committing no offence and then bullied by my chairman,” she told the committee. Speaking to ABC’s 7.30 tonight, Ms Holgate describes the Prime Minister’s behaviour as “one of the worst acts of bullying I’ve ever witnessed”.

April 8 – Government proposes changes to Sex Discrimination Act

More than a year after the [email protected] report was released in January 2020, the Federal government announces it will adopt all the recommendations put forward by the review including key legislative reforms.

Under the proposed changes, judges and MPs will no longer be exempt from the scope of the Sex Discrimination Act – a key piece of anti-discrimination law which sets out the grounds for sexual harassment as valid grounds for dismissal from a workplace.

“We will be subject to the same law as anybody else, which means we’ll be subject to the same consequences,” Senator Cash said.

The Human Rights Act will also be amended to allow victims two years to come forward, instead of the current six months.

The government is also looking to add sexual harassment in the definition of serious misconduct to the Fair Work Act.

“I think with the current momentum across our community, there’s a real appetite for change … I’m really optimistic that this might be the turning point that we need for our workplaces.”—Kate Jenkins, Sex discrimination Commissioner

Australia’s new Attorney-General and Federal Minister, Michaelia Cash in Perth, WA, Australia. Image credit: Matt Jelonek / Getty Images

March 29, 2021

Scott Morrison announces a historic cabinet reshuffle, dramatically increasing female representation in senior leadership positions. The new cabinet boasts of the “strongest” female representation an Australian government cabinet has ever had following growing calls for quotas to be introduced to Parliament. Senator Michaelia Cash is appointed as Australia’s new Attorney-General, replacing Christian Porter. Foreign Minister Marise Payne will lead the taskforce of the new ministerial roles – including Women’s Safety and Women’s Economic Security – Mr Morrison describing her role as the “Prime Minister for Women”.

“We are on the precipice of a revolution, whose call to action needs to be heard loud and clear.” – Grace Tame, Australian of the Year 2021

March 27, 2021

A  third Queensland woman speaks out about the conduct of Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming. Crystal White claims Mr Laming took a picture of her bottom on his mobile phone in 2019, while her underwear was exposed as she bent down and filled a fridge with drinks at a landscape supplies business in Brisbane.

The Australian House of Representatives at the Australian Parliament, Canberra, Australia. Image credit: Aditya Joshi

March 25, 2021

Member for Bowman, Andrew Laming, issues an apology in the House of Representatives just an hour before a major 9News investigation reveals accusations of online abuse of two of his own constituents – both women.

March 25, 2021

Scott Morrison sits down with A Current Affair host Tracy Grimshaw for the first exclusive television interview since Brittany Higgins came forward. During the interview, Mr Morrison is grilled about his handling of the situation with Grimshaw asking him, “Where have you been?”

March 25, 2021

Exactly three months since Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year, NSW Nationals MP Michael Johnsen identifies himself as the man behind the rape allegations. In a statement, Mr Johnsen says he is “devastated” by the claims made against him. He resigns from his position while police continue their investigation.

“I am confident any investigation will conclude that I am an innocent party.”— Michael Johnsen, NSW Nationals MP

Katoomba, NSW, Australia. Image credit: Tarryn Myburgh

March 24, 2021

More allegations of sexual violence from within Australian politics come to light when Trish Doyle, the Labor MP for the Blue Mountains, tells the lower house a NSW government MP allegedly raped a sex worker in a “secluded lookout” in the Blue Mountains.

“This upheaval we’re witnessing right now in Australia is entirely different, however, from the routine rearrangements we’re used to seeing in Parliament House … And what’s extraordinary is that it’s been generated nationally by the voices of people conventionally thought powerless … A young political staffer, close to the bottom of the heap. Schoolgirls. The voice of a woman from her grave, telling a contested story from long ago. Women who’ve been spat out from the system in Parliament House.”— Annabel Crabb, political journalist and commentator for the ABC

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Image credit: David Gray/Getty Images

March 22, 2021

Later that night, Mr Morrison apologises for the false claims about allegations of workplace harassment within News Corp. During his apology, Mr Morrison accepted his wrongdoing saying he “deeply regrets” his “insensitive response”.

“It takes more than tears. It takes legislative change. It takes culture change. It takes working with our young people from their earliest days.”— Tanya Plibersek, Member for Sydney, Shadow Minister for Women and Australian Labor Party MP

March 22, 2021

Scott Morrison holds a press conference condemning the actions of his colleagues, labelling their actions as “disgusting” and “sickening”. “The actions of these individuals show a staggering disrespect for the people who work in Parliament, and for the ideals the Parliament is supposed to represent,” he said. The speech stood in stark contrast to the PM’s tone in past media appearances and seemed to reflect a shift toward an acceptance of the frustrations of Australian women.

“This was the speech Australian women had been wanting and wishing to hear for at least a month following a build up of national grief and frustration that the most powerful man in the country hasn’t seemed to grasp how widespread misogyny is … It was a reset, a changing of the script. But without solutions it runs the risk of being seen as a political exercise in self-preservation.”— Patricia Karvelas for the ABC

During the speech, Mr Morrison hit back at a journalist who asked how he would address the culture of sexism in Parliament by incorrectly referencing a harassment claim at News Corp.

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“You’d be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet, and that matter is being pursued by your own HR department,” he said.

The journalist, Andrew Clennell responded he was not aware of the complaint.

“Let’s not, all of us who sit in glass houses here, start getting into that,” Mr Morrison said.

March 22, 2021

A Morrison government adviser is sacked after pixelated images of unnamed Coalition advisers allegedly performing lewd sex acts on the desks of female MPs is broadcast on Network 10, deepening the political crisis surrounding workplace culture at Parliament House.

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“All these things exist on a continuum. That continuum stretches all the way along and somewhere along there is physical assault, sexual assault, rape murder. It’s not that everyone who is sexist is going to go on to become a killer but when we have culture that allows that other things to go uncheck then it’s creating immunity and impunity for people who have do those things … Yes, not all men are violent but if you flip that and ask women do you have an experience of feeling unsafe or an experience of sexual assault it will be alarming the number of women who will say yes.”— Tarang Chawla, gender equality and mental health advocate, for FW Live

March 15, 2021

Thousands of women gather in major protests around the country calling for an end to violence against women and sexual harassment in the workplace.

“We are all here today not because we want to be here, [but] because we have to be here. We fundamentally recognise the system is broken … We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight.”— Brittany Higgins

On the morning of the nation-wide demonstrations, protest organiser Janine Hendry, confronts Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in the halls of Parliament in front of the press and asks for his assurance that the government would implement changes to address the issues raised by the movement. 

“We’re drawing a line in the sand right here … You’ve been looking at this for years, I’m sorry but it’s time and it’s time now. We don’t want any more reports, we want change.”— Janine Hendry, March 4 Justice organiser

In his opening remarks in Question Time, Mr Morrison said it was “right and good” that people were able to congregate in peaceful protests as tens of thousands gathered to demand action against gendered violence in Australia.

“Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country, Mr Speaker,” he said.

March 14, 2021

ABC Journalist Louise Milligan is sued for defamation by Christian Porter over the article published on February 26. A statement put forward by solicitor Rebekah Giles claims Mr Porter was “subjected to trial by media without regard to the presumption of innocence or the rules of evidence and without any proper disclosure of the material said to support the untrue allegations.” The lawsuit sparks intense public debate on freedom of the press and the inadequacy of Australia’s legal system to deal with sexual assault allegations.

“Our democracy relies on an informed public in order to function, and they in turn rely upon public interest journalism. Our defamation laws carry great risk for all litigants, including Christian Porter, the ABC and Louise Milligan. He is entitled to seek to vindicate his reputation, but the process for doing so in our legal system is not well designed to foster an informed public nor to determine questions of criminality or fitness to hold high office.”— Daniel Joyce, senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law and Justice at UNSW, for The Guardian

March 8, 2021

International Women’s Day

“I think feminism comes in waves and I can really feel another major wave is gathering, it’s gathering from activism in our own country and around the world.” – Julia Gillard, 27th Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of Beyond Blue

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces review into workplace culture at Parliament House, March 5, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. Image credit:
Mark Evans / Getty Images

March 4, 2021

The Australian reports the Defence Minister Linda Reynolds called Brittany Higgins a “lying cow”. The publication reports Ms Reynolds made the remark in front of staffers on the day Ms Higgins went public with her allegations. Ms Higgins responded to the reports saying, “The comments made by Minister Reynolds are incredibly hurtful.”

“I appreciate that it has been a stressful time but that sort of behaviour and language is never excusable … It’s just further evidence of the toxic workplace culture that exists behind closed doors in Parliament House.”— Brittany Higgins, advocate for women and former Liberal Party staffer

March 4, 2021

Scott Morrison says he will not lodge an inquiry into the allegations made against Chirstian Porter and that such an inquiry would go against Australia’s rule of law.

“It is not too late, prime minister. My plea to you is that you read the alleged victim’s statement in full; you owe that to her, to the victims of sexual assault and to your office … Never again allow a legal vacuum to consume the office of attorney general and the proper provision of legal advice to the commonwealth.” – Justice Gleeson SC, High Court Judge and solicitor general of the Commonwealth of Australia (2012-2016)

Grace Tame attends an event at the National Press Club on March 3, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Image credit:
Sam Mooy / Stringer

March 3, 2021

2021 Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, delivers a powerful address to the National Press Club, calling on sexual assault survivors to “share your truth”.

“It is so important for our nation, the whole world, in fact, to listen to survivors’ stories. Whilst they’re disturbing to hear, the reality of what goes on behind closed doors is more so. And the more details we omit for fear of disturbance, the more we soften these crimes.”— Grace Tame

Less than an hour later Attorney-General Christian Porter identifies himself as the Cabinet minister at the centre of a historical rape allegation. During a shock press conference, Mr Porter holds back tears while denying he ever had sexual relations of any kind with his accuser. “I can say what has been put forward in allegations simply did not happen,” he says.

“During his emotional press conference, Christian Porter – the highest law officer in our country – asked journalists to imagine, just for a second that the allegations were not true. This is a perfectly fair and reasonable question for him to ask. He is the subject of a serious and life-altering allegations that may well be false. However, the woman who made those allegations is now deceased. She cannot ask us to imagine the opposite. And so, we must do that for ourselves.”— Jamila Rizvi, Chief Creative Officer at Future Women

February 26, 2021

An article is published by ABC investigative journalist Louise Milligan, reveals the Scott Morrison and the AFP have been sent an anonymous letter regarding a 33-year-old allegation of rape against one of his Cabinet ministers. The minister behind the allegations is not named however the article spurs conversation and outrage over toxic workplace culture in Canberra.

The article claims the woman behinds the allegations told NSW police in 2020 but then took her own life before making a formal statement. There are now calls for the minister to be stood down while an investigation is conducted.

February 24, 2021

Brittany Higgins makes a formal complaint to the AFP about her alleged rape in 2019. The same day, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton reveals to Parliament he was only notified by the AFP about the allegations a few days before Ms Higgins went public.

February 22, 2021

A fourth woman makes an allegation against the same man accused of raping Brittany Higgins. The woman revealed to ABC’s Four Corners she made a formal complaint to Canberra police. Her identity and the contents of that allegation have not been made public.

“There is a procedural vacuum here … and it’s ugly and it’s upsetting, it’s horrible.”— Annabel Crabb

February 22, 2021

Two days later, The Australian reports a third woman has given a statutory declaration outlining allegations of sexual assault by the same man during the 2016 election campaign.

“A culture develops whereby those who are prone to inappropriate or unprofessional or even illegal behaviour get a sense of protection.”— Julie Bishop, former Minister for Foreign Affairs (2013 to 2018) and deputy leader of the Liberal Party (2007 to 2018), during the ABC’s 7:30 Report

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February 20, 2021

A second woman tells The Australian she was raped in 2020 by the same man accused of raping Brittany Higgins.

February 20, 2021

A viral petition, launched by 22-year-old Chanel Contos, reveals more than 500 allegations of sexual assault in high-profile private schools around the country. The allegations include a raft of disturbing testimonies from current and former students detailing their experiences of sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by fellow classmates. The petition signed by well over 5000 people calls for an overhaul of sex education in schools to include more about the issue of consent.

“I am told the ‘perfect storm’ has emerged between Brittany Higgins, and me this year. But there was nothing serendipitous about this timing. The storm did not emerge; it was there the whole time. Australia felt it only as a light drizzle because our society puts up umbrellas so we can ignore the problem.”— Chanel Contos for the Sydney Morning Herald

“It’s so tempting to think that a lot of the problems we’re having around sexual assault and consent are a generational thing … but I truly believe that if we choose to cross our fingers and hope that the passage of time will improve the situation, we are ignoring the thousands of girls who have shared horrific testimony of how they are being offended against by their peers.”— Bri Lee, author for FW Live

February 19, 2021

Scott Morrison again denies knowing about the alleged rape of a former staff member after a series of text messages emerges that appear to show his office was told of Brittany Higgins’ claims soon after it allegedly took place. The text messages were between Ms Higgins and another Liberal Party staffer in early April of 2019. In the texts, the male staffer wrote that he spoke to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I have sought to be as open and honest as I can be about this matter.”— Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds. Image credit: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

February 18, 2021

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds breaks down in tears during question time in the Senate as speculation intensifies over the Federal Government’s response to Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape.

February 17, 2021

More details surrounding the allegations of Brittany Higgins are brought to light when it is revealed a steam-cleaning of Minister Linda Reynolds was office was ordered by the Department of Finance in the hours after the alleged rape.

“The male privilege in Australia’s parliament has given its members such a sense of exceptionalism, they seem to think the standards of the corporate office or roadworks site should not apply to their workplace.”— Louise Chappell, Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW and Natalie Galea, leading interdisciplinary researcher in gender justice, business and human rights

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February 17, 2021

Brittany Higgins releases a statement about her decision to go public with her story, saying she wants to create change in how Parliament handles incidents of sexual assault and to ensure her perpetrator is put before the court.

“It should not have taken my story, or the story of other victim-survivors to air on national television for the Prime Minister – or any Member of Parliament – to take action on workplace sexual harassment, assault or bullying.”Brittany Higgins

In her statement Ms Higgins reveals she was only made aware of key elements of her own assault as a result of coming forward publicly including the fact security guards let her into Minister Reynolds’ suite and later came into the office “multiple times” seeing her “in a state of undress” and had debated calling an ambulance at the time of the incident.

Ms Higgins also took aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison and singled out senior parliamentary staffers in her statement. “The continued victim-blaming rhetoric by the Prime Minister is personally very distressing to me and countless other survivors … The Government has questions to answer for their own conduct.”

February 16, 2021

After denying he knew anything about the allegations, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announces two reviews to be undertaken into how parliamentary staff could be better protected against sexual harassment at work.

Brittany Higgins and Lisa Wilkinson at the March 4 Justice in Canberra, Australia. Image credit:
Jamila Toderas / Stringer

February 15, 2021

An article is published by News.com.au detailing allegations of rape by a federal political staffer inside the walls of Australian Parliament. The allegations claim a man working for then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds took a 24-year-old female media staffer into Parliament House after Friday night drinks in March 2019 and raped her inside Ms Reynold’s office. The young woman behind the allegations is Brittany Higgins.

“I was failed repeatedly but I now have my voice and I am determined to use it to ensure that this is never allowed to happen to another member of staff again.”— Brittany Higgins

January 25, 2021

The year begins with one of Australia’s loudest voices for survivors of child sex abuse, Grace Tame, whose case led to the overturning of a Tasmanian gag laws, being named Australian of the Year.

“When we share, we heal … I remember him saying ‘Don’t tell anybody’. I remember him saying ‘Don’t make a sound’. Hear me now. Using my voice amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced.”— Grace Tame

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As the events of the last three month continue to ripple through our society, Future Women will be updating this timeline to keep you up to date and informed on everything that happens next.

For anyone seeking help for sexual assault or domestic violence you can call 1800RESPECT for 24-hour support. You can also contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Image credits for header: Getty Images