Brittany Higgins compared her fight against the ‘patriarchy’ in Parliament House to the Tibetan monks who self-immolated during the Vietnam War.
This is just one extraordinary detail from a rough, unpublished draft of Ms Higgins’ memoir, exclusively obtained by Daily Mail Australia, which she had tentatively titled #NotJustADaughter.
Ms Higgins was given a $325,000 advance by Penguin Random House in March 2021 to write her book, which was supposed to outline the moment Bruce Lehrmann allegedly raped her in Parliament House in 2019. He firmly denies the allegations.
The final 90,000-word autobiography was meant to hit shelves in 2022, but publishers placed it on indefinite hold due to legal issues – namely, because the trial against Mr Lehrmann fell over and he was never convicted.
The unfinished draft is not necessarily anything like what the final version would have been, but it still gives valuable insight into what Ms Higgins submitted to her publishers in April 2021 and what she wanted to write about.
Brittany Higgins (left) first made public her allegations against Bruce Lehrmann in an interview with Lisa Wilkinson (right). They are pictured together at the March4Justice rally in March 2021
Brittany Higgins (left, with her fiancé David Sharaz) started drafting her book, tentatively titled #NotJustADaughter, in early 2021
It contains a raft of observations and metaphors about her thoughts and feelings in the months immediately after she went public with her allegations – including the ‘media scandal’ she apparently knew she had sparked.
There were several definitions of ‘media scandal’ on one page, with a range of book titles and academic journal articles, above the Latin term ‘corpus delicti = smoking gun’ in italics – which roughly translates to ‘body of a crime’.
There was also a small section called ‘trial by media’ in which Ms Higgins says she felt as though she had ‘no choice’ but to make her allegations against Mr Lehrmann in an interview with Lisa Wilkinson on national television – arguing ‘there was no other way’.
At another point, she was ‘gutted’ by the fact former prime minister Scott Morrison did not treat her like sexual assault survivor Grace Tame, who was crowed Australian of the Year in 2021.
Tibetan monks comparison
Ms Higgins mused on the aftermath of her TV interview with Wilkinson on The Project in February 2021, comparing herself to Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in the 1960s.
Under the subheading ‘self-immolation analogy’, and referring the months after she went public with her allegations, she wrote: ‘I often conjured the image of the inhuman Tibetan monks, who seemed to peacefully sit while engulfed in flames to protest the occupation of the Chinese.
‘The comparison was crass but in some perverse way I related. In one way or another, I felt like I had lit myself on fire. It was a protest of public self-immolation.
‘It was a choice to burn my life, as I had known it, to the ground – in the hope this act would inspire action.’
The analogy then turned to an Olympic torchbearer, alongside reflections of an apparent conversation with her fiancé David Sharaz.
Ms Higgins compared herself to monks who set themselves on fire to protest Chinese occupation in Tibet. Pictured: Thich Quang Duc who took his own life at an intersection in Saigon, South Vietnam
She wrote: ‘I lamented to David, “I keep waiting for someone else to pick up my embers and carry on the flame.
‘”Like the Olympics, but instead of a baton, it’s the media narrative against the existing patriarchal power structure still in play at Parliament House. I just don’t feel like that next runner is coming”.
‘So, at great efforts, I continued to make strides while the fire charred what was left of my skin.’
On the same page, under the heading ‘trial by media’, Ms Higgins details a conversation she had with Mr Sharaz during this same timeframe.
‘”Did I do something bad? This whole precedent, this trial by media? Is this all my fault?” I cried into David’s chest,’ she wrote.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. There was no other way,” I [sic] weeped. Exhaustion had sunk in.’
One section of the draft is called ‘Australian of the Year: Grace Tame’, and detailed Ms Higgins’ heartache when former prime minister Scott Morrison handed Ms Tame the award.
Ms Tame was crowned Australian of the Year in 2021 because she is a proven sexual assault survivor who successfully campaigned to change laws in Tasmania that stopped her from publicly speaking about her experience, but allowed her abuser to do so.
In her book draft, Ms Higgins wrote: ‘Gutted with pain I couldn’t quite understand, I was reliving 2019.’
Ms Higgins (left) said she was ‘gutted’ when former Prime Minister Scott Morrison crowned Grace Tame (right) Australian of the Year
‘When the staff of the Prime Minister’s Office intimidated and gaslit me into staying silent.
‘Here he was on stage, the prime minister himself, presenting an award to young woman who championed the #LetUsSpeak campaign.’
Ms Higgins also referred to herself as a ‘B-grade Grace Tame’.
‘She exists outside and beyond the political bubble. Court case closed, awarded and revered,’ she wrote.
‘Here I am in the mud with the pigs – fighting for control of the daily news cycle. Throwing mud: a WhatsApp here, a voicemail there, a drop to [political journalist], Sam [Maiden].’
‘Corpus delicti = smoking gun’
One page of the draft contained ‘research notes and quotables’, including notations about the meaning of a ‘scandal’.
She took one definition from a 2001 academic journal article called ‘Media Scandals: Morality and Desire in the Popular Culture Marketplace’.
Ms Higgins noted: ‘A media scandal occurs when private acts that disgrace or offend the idealised dominant morality of a social community are [made] public and narrativised by the media, producing a range of effects from ideologies and cultural retrenchment to disruption and change.’
She included the title of book ‘Power of a scandal: Semiotic and pragmatic in mass media’ by Johannes Ehrat, and included seven bullet points with different definitions of ‘scandal’.
Italicised and underlined was the term ‘corpus delicti = smoking gun’.
Corpus delicti is a Latin term which translates to ‘the body of a crime’, and generally refers to the principle that no one should be convicted of a crime without sufficient evidence.
Ms Higgins alleged Bruce Lehrmann (centre) raped her in Parliament House in 2019. He strongly denies the allegations
Earlier, Daily Mail Australia revealed a series of other chapters Ms Higgins outlined in her memoir – including a few details about her experiences in former defence industry minister Steven Ciobo’s office.
Chapter five was called ‘the sitting week cycle’, and refers to Ms Higgins’ first meeting with an ‘infamous’ group known as ‘the big swinging d**ks’ in Mr Ciobo’s office.
Ms Higgins not only identified the four federal ministers who were part of the group with Mr Ciobo, but said she had once been ‘serving them drinks’ when they invited her out to a bar after work one Wednesday.
In another section, called ‘The Team Ciobo Christmas party in the office’, Ms Higgins recalled Mr Ciobo ‘lining up his staff and pouring whiskey directly into our mouths’.
She said the event had a ‘Wolf of Wall Street-style of hedonism about it’ – referring to the 2013 film about former stockbroker Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who was known for his wealth, salacious parties and eventual imprisonment.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Mr Ciobo for comment.
Mr Lehrmann was charged with sexual assault in August 2021, and was tried in the ACT Supreme Court in October 2022. However, the trial was vacated because a member of the jury brought banned research material into the court.
The charge against Mr Lehrmann was dropped altogether in December because prosecutors were concerned for Ms Higgins’ mental health.
In March this year, Mr Lehrmann launched defamation suits against Channel Ten and Wilkinson for broadcasting and publishing Ms Higgins’ allegations.
He is also suing the ABC for a broadcast in which Ms Higgins made the allegations.
Mr Lehrmann was not named as the alleged rapist in either broadcast, but believes he was identifiable to his former colleagues and in parliamentary circles.
A hearing has been scheduled in the Federal Court in November.