Tasmania’s Grace Tame has been crowned Australian of the Year (pictured)
Tasmania’s Grace Tame has been crowned Australian of the Year for her advocacy and campaign work for survivors of sexual assault.
The 26-year-old was presented with the award at a ceremony in Canberra on Monday evening, marking the first time a Tasmanian has won the title.
Ms Tame wants a greater focus on education and prevention of child sexual assault, particularly through grooming and psychological manipulation by abusers.
The Tasmanian became the first woman in the state to win the right to publicly name herself as a rape survivor, allowing her to speak about the abuse she went through as a 15-year-old, at the hands of a maths teacher.
Prior to her legal victory, Ms Tame was barred from speaking publicly about the crimes in which she was a victim, while her abuser – who was jailed – was able to openly tell his story.
An emotional Ms Tame said her win is for ‘all survivors of child sexual abuse’ as she vowed to use her position for change.
She said an important step is to have Australians to be informed about the reality of child sex abuse.
‘Discussion of child sexual abuse is uncomfortable. But nothing is as uncomfortable as abuse itself,’ she said.
‘I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15, anorexic. He was 58, my teacher. For months he groomed me, then abused me every day: Before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor. I didn’t know who I was.
‘Publicly, he described his crimes as ”awesome”. Publicly, I was silenced by law. Let Her Speak helped give me a voice. Campaign creator – Nina Funnell, campaign partners, the 16 other brave campaign survivors: thank you.
‘Together, we can redefine what it means to be a survivor. Together, we can end child sexual abuse. Survivors, be proud. Our stories are changing history.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and 2021 Australian of the Year winner Grace Tame during the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards at the National Arboretum in Canberra
Ms Tame (pictured) became the first woman in the state to win the right to publicly name herself as a rape survivor, allowing her to speak about the abuse she went through as a 15-year-old, at the hands of a maths teacher
Ms Tame recalled the moment she first spoke about her abuse to a male teacher who believed her.
She said it was important to believe survivors and help them wherever possible because as a group you are stronger.
‘I was abused by a male teacher. But one of the first people I told was also a male teacher. He believed me,’ she said.
‘I remember you towering over me, blocking the door. I remember you saying, ‘don’t make a sound’. Well hear me now, using my voice, in a growing chorus that will not be silenced.
‘We do transform as individuals, and we do transform as a community … I know who I am. I’m a survivor.’
Ms Tame decided to get a tattoo when she was 19 to represent her survival. The tattoo reads: ‘Eat my fear’.
She explained that the message is about speaking up against abusers and learning the lessons from survivors.
‘It’s about swallowing the terror and moving forward regardless,’ she said.
‘That’s what predators weaponise – they weaponise our fear. That’s the foundation of their psychological manipulation, which is a huge element of prolonged sexual abuse.
‘In fact, I would say it’s the main component of prolonged sexual abuse – the cycle of psychological manipulation, as opposed to the physical, criminal behaviour. And predators want us to feel that fear.
‘I say, no, let’s transfer it back into their hearts, where it belongs.’
More to follow.
An emotional Ms Tame after being announced 2021 Australian of the Year on Monday