This article contains references to sexual assault
Australian of the Year Grace Tame says more must be done to support survivors of child abuse and sexual assault while telling them “you are not alone”.
The 26-year-old sexual abuse survivor was on Monday night recognised for her tireless advocacy, particularly her fight to overturn Tasmanian laws preventing survivors from speaking out.
The legislation had stopped Ms Tame from telling her harrowing story of being groomed and abused as a 15-year-old by her high school maths teacher.
She told SBS News “more change” is needed to reform laws and better support survivors.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” she said.
“Child sexual abuse and sexual assault are issues that are still happening everyday and the buck is stopping with innocent men, women and children and that’s not okay.”
Ms Tame is the first person from the state of Tasmania to win the award in its 60-year history.
She delivered a powerful speech after the award was announced, dedicating it to survivors of sexual abuse across Australia.
Ms Tame also recounted painful details of the experience that had led her to becoming an advocate.
“I remember him saying, ‘Don’t tell anybody. I remember him saying, ‘Don’t make a sound,’ she said.
Ms Tame’s experience helped spark the #LetHerSpeak campaign, in which she become the first woman in Tasmania to be granted the legal right to speak out about her experience.
She told SBS News the emotion shared in her speech was a recognition of the transition that had taken place in her life.
“11 years ago – my life looked very different,” she said.
“We all go through pain as human beings – we all suffer but that suffering can be turned into incredible, unstoppable positivity.”
This year’s Australia Day honours were the second all-female awards line-up since 2015.
Aboriginal elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann was recognised as the Senior Australian of the Year, using her speech to implore the nation to better understand Indigenous communities.
Young Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall is a social entrepreneur and student who is passionate about ending “period poverty” and the stigma around menstruation.
Kenyan refugee Rosemary Kariuki was crowned Australia’s Local Hero for her work helping female migrants combat loneliness as they settle into their new communities.
Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.
Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.