Brittany Higgins has revealed what Scott Morrison said to her in a closed-door meeting as she said she will be campaigning at the federal election.
Brittany Higgins has put the Prime Minister Scott Morrison on notice that she will campaign to ensure “real change” for women is on the agenda at next year’s federal election revealing he told her during a private meeting: “it’s your right to ask, it’s my right to consider.”
In her acceptance speech for a major feminist award on Friday night, she urged Australian women to continue to “speak their truth” and demand action on women’s rights at the next election.
And she paid tribute to Liberal staffers who had spoken out on workplace issues and sexual violence in the past, including Chelsey Potter, Dhanyi Mani and Rachelle Miller, who had a consensual extramarital affair with Liberal frontbencher Alan Tudge.
“This year, I’ve been reminded of the power of disclosure, sharing the unvarnished truth of your lived experience with other people and hearing in response that that has happened to them as well. Dating back to the suffragettes fight for the vote,’’ she said.
“The source of every woman’s social justice movement has been women saying the unsayable thing and discovering it’s not just you.
“I don’t think I’ve ever publicly said this but in my work sphere within politics, my experience with salt and victimisation in the workplace was personally validated by the trailblazing disclosures of Chelsea Potter, Dhanya Mani and Rachelle Millar. Listening to their stories I felt such an immediate sense of shared grief. Although what we each endured was different. It confirmed that what happened to me wasn’t an anomaly. There were systemic issues and politics that I didn’t have to carry it all on my own.
“As a result of their bravery, I decided to speak out. This is what happens when people hold space for you to give voice to your experience, you’ve inadvertently give permission for others to share their truth.”
She also revealed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s words to her when she met with him earlier this year to demand workplace reforms for women, including at Parliament House.
“I sat across from the Prime Minister trying to seek out any firm deliverables beyond more reviews and reports about the culture inside Parliament House, only to be rebuffed by him saying it’s your right to ask it’s my right to consider,’’ she said.
“When I expressed my disappointment, he seemed shocked that I wasn’t merely grateful for his time. These are the actions of the people in our courts, in our schools and in the heart of our democracy. This isn’t a political problem. This is a human problem.
“I encourage women to feel empowered to speak up, call out bad behaviour and share your truth. You have a generation of women ready, willing and able to support you. It’s so vitally important that we capitalise on this moment to seek out real change from our leaders and not just platitudes.
“In the next six months or so, the government will call the next federal election. It’s more important than ever to be vocal and to ensure gendered violence is on the agenda. A repurposed quote by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, our leaders should think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society, because we are entitled to a better standard than this.”
Ms Higgins said her experiences in the media spotlight had been “gruelling.”
“It’s gruelling, opening up and exposing your most personal trauma to public scrutiny,’’ she said. “So thank you for all your openness. Thank you for your honesty, and I hope you all feel some sort of pride in knowing that your disclosures made a difference in not only my life, but the lives of thousands of Australians.”
“Naturally, progress comes with pushback from those accustomed to the status quo. This year has been extremely difficult and oftentimes shocking. It served as an important reminder of just how ingrained sexism is within our major institutions, including federal politics.
“Like many Australians, I watched this all play out in the media from a laptop in my studio apartment in Brisbane. Following the historic March for justice rallies across the country, the Prime Minister of the country decided not to embrace the moment to enact reform, but instead retorted, but not far from here such marches are being met with bullets.”
A Queensland man accused of raping Brittany Higgins inside an office in Parliament House in 2019, will stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court.
Bruce Lehrmann, 26, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.