With the federal election expected to be called any day now, some of Australia’s most impressive women have banded together to demand action from leaders on the treatment and safety of women.
Sexual assault survivors Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame outlined the need for change in a letter and accompanying video, for which they were joined by businesswomen Lucy Turnbull, Christine Holgate and Wendy McCarthy, Paralympian Madison de Rozario, youth activists Yasmin Poole and Chanel Contos, former MP Julia Banks, union leader Michele O’Neil, academic and Indigenous advocate Larissa Behrendt, and early childhood advocate Georgie Dent.
Earlier in the year, both Tame and Higgins also used their speeches at the National Press Club in February to urge the Australian government to take real and meaningful action to keep abuse victims safe, and to support those who choose to come forward.
In the letter, the women share the horrifying statistic that one in five women in Australia will be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime.
“Two in five women have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the last five years. If you’re a First Nations woman, a woman of colour, have a disability or are queer, those statistics are even worse. These are not statistics we can accept. We can – and must – change them,” the letter continues.
The video also reminds us that First Nation women, women of colour, women living with disabilities and women who identify as Queer are even more likely to be the victims of sexual crimes.
Releasing the campaign video just before International Women’s Day 2022 (March 8), Tame, Higgins and their counterparts outlined nine steps to address persistent inequality in Australia.
“Every woman in Australia deserves access to a safe place to work, a safe place to live, fair and equal pay, quality free early learning & care, and a justice system that works for survivors,” the letter reads.
Preventing sexual harassment and bullying. (Implement all 55 recommendations in the Respect@Work report including a positive duty on employers.)
10 days paid family and domestic violence leave.
Acting on the National Plan for First Nations Women and Girls. (Support & fund the 7 recommendations in the 2020 Wiyi Yani U Thangani Report)
Ensuring effective employment programs for women with disability.
Stronger, consistent child sexual assault laws.
Eliminating the gender pay gap including necessary legal reform.
Free, accessible and quality early childhood education and care.
Expanding paid parental leave.
Embedding respectful relationships and consent education everywhere including schools, universities, workplaces and homes.”
Both the letter and video are a powerful call to action for the country after a momentous 2021 in which the conversations around gendered violence and equality grew louder than ever before. As is stated in the campaign, last year was not the first time women were “harassed or unsafe or violated or ignored or disrespected. And it wasn’t the first year that women spoke up.”
However, 2021 was the year that people finally started to listen, as the chorus of voices from all different backgrounds and experiences began to speak up in a way that could no longer be silenced or simply ignored.
In January 2021, Tame, a survivor of child sexual assault, was named Australian of the Year for her role in raising public awareness about the impacts of sexual violence. Shortly thereafter, inspired by Tame, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins went public with her story of allegedly being raped by a colleague in a ministerial office in March 2019.
In February, former private school student Contos spearheaded a petition (successfully) demanding sexual consent education in Australian schools, inspiring over 5,000 victim-survivors to anonymously share stories of teenage sexual assault, while in March, more than 100,000 Australians participated in the March4Justice rallies to protest sexual assault and harassment in politics, while calling for an end to gendered violence.
The letter concludes by inviting all Australians to join the women in “demanding a future in which all women enjoy safety, respect and equity. It is within reach and it starts here.”
To find out how you can join the fight for equality and the protection of women’s rights in Australia, click here.