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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 March 2021) . . Page.. 566 ..

keep talking about our culture, our values; keep talking about our expectations of behaviour; keep talking about consent.

I want to commend every person in our community who has created a safe space, a safe conversation, a safe interaction for someone to disclose their story or their pain. You are a major part of the solution. To survivors of sexual assault in the ACT, I will be a strong advocate for you. You do not have to carry the weight of the secrets, the burden, alone. And to the community more broadly: be brave. Support each other in these hard conversations. If we can talk about sexual assault the way we do about other crimes, openly and with respect for victims, we will move mountains. Perpetrators of this violence thrive in the silence. That is why it is the responsibility of all of us to end this silence.

MS LEE (Kurrajong—Leader of the Opposition) (10.59): Anger, sadness, resignation, exasperation—a palpable desperation that something needs to change, that something must change. The responses to everything that has happened over the last few months clearly demonstrate that we are at a pivotal juncture in our society. When I say “responses”, I do not refer to the political, the legal or the PR responses. This is, of course, not to say that I do not support or that I do not agree with the list of initiatives that the Minister for Women has just read out in her statement. I am talking about the raw, the emotional, the human responses we have seen and heard from around the country from women, girls, men, boys, parents, grandparents, our elders and our youth.

This month we “celebrated” International Women’s Day, and I say celebrated in quotations because, as Ms Lawder pointed out, this year it was a little different. It was stained with a darkness that engulfed and consumed what should have been an opportunity to celebrate, to encourage, to support and to highlight the achievements of so many amazing women in our community. I had the opportunity to attend various events, many of them organised by Canberra’s multicultural communities, and it was not lost on me that, whilst we were marking this International Women’s Day with the theme of “choose to challenge”, many women in our community do not have a choice.

For many women in our community, women from multicultural communities, our First Nations women, women from the LGBTIQ+ community and women living with disabilities, it is not a choice to challenge—to challenge the status quo, to challenge the patriarchy, to challenge the systemic inequalities that exist for them. I know, because she is my mother; I know, because she was me. When women who are marginalised are too busy feeling grateful to be included, even in a token way, in this foreign and out of reach world of Australian politics and public discourse, they do not have the luxury of choosing to do anything.

As an elected representative, I have been afforded the privilege of having a platform, a voice, and I have always said that my duty is to represent and advocate for those who may not be in a position to do it for themselves, and that duty is more important than ever. This also highlights and entrenches the importance of diversity in our leaders, anyone who is in a privileged position of making decisions on behalf of and for our community.

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