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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 March 2021) . . Page.. 565 ..


was allegedly raped at Parliament House, the nation went into freefall. Allegation after allegation of rape, sexual harassment and unprofessional behaviour, to say the least, exposed an entrenched culture of misogyny in Parliament House. Further to this, Chanel Contos started an online petition in New South Wales that went viral, with hundreds of young people, schoolchildren, disclosing sexual assault stemming from a sexist culture entrenched in Sydney’s elite private schools.

News reports daily feature disclosures of sexual assault and harassment in our parliaments, institutions and workplaces. The media, in particular female journalists in this country, should be commended for their reporting of these stories, relentlessly pursuing the truth and holding those in powerful leadership positions accountable. Two weeks ago, tens of thousands of women and men marched for justice at Parliament House here in Canberra and around the country, crying, “Enough is enough.” The voices of women marginalised, women powerless, including the voice of a woman from the grave, were held up, were heard and were believed.

As a nation, we cannot wait while the men of the federal Liberal Party go on behaviour and empathy courses or instate extra ministers for women. We cannot wait while women are being abused and assaulted every single day in their homes, in their workplaces and in their communities. As the minister said, 86 per cent of victims of sexual assault in the ACT are women. Sexual assaults can occur in two contexts: firstly, where the perpetrator is not known to the victim, and, secondly, at the hands of men who are known to the victim, who are trusted and respected.

Either way, these perpetrators saw themselves in a position of power over us, where consent did not matter, where we were not equal. And you know what? Women are not equal to men in this country. Australia ranked 44th on the global gender gap index in 2020, calculated by the World Economic Forum. We are behind the Nordic countries, New Zealand, Mexico, the Philippines and Serbia. We are just one ahead of Zimbabwe and the United States.

Four sub-indexes are used to determine the overall gender gap score. Australia does very well on gender parity in educational attainment. However, once we leave the education system, everything goes downhill. On the other three indexes—economic participation and opportunity, health and political empowerment—Australia is well down the list. In 2006 Australia was 15th on the gap. In 15 years, we have gone significantly backwards. The fact that we have gone backwards on these global scales and the fact that rates of family violence, sexual assault and harassment have all increased is no coincidence.

In all my work with constituents over the last month, the message that is coming very strongly from the ground is that the ground has shifted. The views from men and women have been unanimous: enough is enough. I am proud to be part of this Assembly that is over 50 per cent female and has established a women’s caucus. I am proud to be part of the ACT government that will work to reform the process of support for victims of sexual assault. I am proud that we have an ACT Minister for Women, Yvette Berry, who has a voice and is using it. As Grace Tame said, we cannot fix a problem we do not discuss. Despite how hard the conversations over the past weeks have been, I strongly encourage the community to keep talking about this:


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