By Ebi Kesiena
Two prominent advocates for sexual abuse survivors condemned Australia’s Prime Minister on Wednesday, decrying his weasel words and a response to widespread abuse that had not “measured up”.
Former Government Aide, Brittany Higgins, whose allegation that she was raped by a colleague, in Parliament, sparked national protests, said “too little has changed” since she went public a year ago.
In a widely watched speech, Higgins was sorrowful and withering about the actions of a conservative government she once served.
Higgins said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response, which invoked his own daughters and wife, had been “shocking and at times, admittedly, a bit offensive”.
“I didn’t want his sympathy as a father. I wanted him to use his power as Prime Minister.
“But his words wouldn’t matter if his actions had measured up.” she said.
Higgins said the national conversation about ending abuse, harassment and assault had not progressed beyond “trading off offensive, tone-deaf statements for a convoluted mix of appeasing weasel-words”.
Higgins was joined in her address by child sexual abuse survivor Grace Tame, the 2021 “Australian of the Year”, who also took aim at the prime minister’s leadership over the past year.
“It rots from the top,” Tame said.
“Unless our leaders take full responsibility for their own failings, abuse culture will continue to thrive inside parliament, setting a corrupt standard for the rest of the nation.”
The plight of both women had fuelled national debate and soul searching in Australia, as well as multiple government investigations.
One of those, the 450-page Jenkins Review, found that one in three people currently working in Parliament and other Federal Government workplaces have experienced sexual harassment while there.