Page 291 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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government in response to the 28 recommendations of the Jenkins review, a comprehensive review undertaken by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins into commonwealth parliamentary workplace culture.

As Grace Tame observed of the apology and the formal acknowledgement of sexual offences, we need to work more than just with words. We need action. I am pleased that this Assembly has a robust code of conduct in place and that important changes were made last year to strengthen our workplace culture and ensure a zero tolerance approach to workplace bullying, harassment and abuse.

Yesterday I had the honour of attending the National Press Club address by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins, our leading national advocates on issues of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and both with very powerful stories to tell from their own lived experience as victim/survivors. The address focused on the radical shift that is needed across our workplace culture and our community more broadly, for which we are all responsible. We must all take a stand that sexual assault and sexual abuse are not tolerated and ensure that our institutions, workplaces and homes do not perpetuate protections for perpetrators.

I have been humbled to have received great support from both Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins for the introduction of law reform through the bill I introduced on Tuesday. I would also like to thank Saxon Mullins, another nation-leading voice and advocate for sexual assault victim/survivors, who has been incredibly supportive.

Continuing this strong theme across the week, today Minister Rattenbury, as Attorney-General, introduced in the Assembly important changes to the Crimes Act which clearly articulate that the grooming of a young person is not a relationship but is sexual abuse; in fact, it is persistent sexual abuse of a child. This change has arisen as a direct result of recommendations late last year by Grace Tame to all Australian attorneys-general, noting that the wording of relationship in the context of child sexual abuse implies consent and diminishes the real nature of the offence. The ACT, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory all have the word “relationship” in legislation regarding this offence. I commend Minister Rattenbury for acting quickly to rectify this in the ACT.

In closing, it is time for change. Enough is enough. In fact, it is beyond time for change. A Chinese proverb says that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now. I look forward to the day that sexual assault and child abuse are of much less concern and of much less headline newsworthiness than they have been this week, not because it is a neglected issue but because it simply does not happen very much anymore.

Unfortunately, sexual assault is an issue that is very real today, and it is an issue that has a much-needed spotlight and continuing discourse—in our homes and our workplaces, with our family, friends and colleagues; in government policy and legislation; and in our schools and education systems. We need to keep having these conversations. We need to continue to hold each other to account.

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