An opening keynote speech delivered by Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a women’s safety summit on Monday has landed flat, after he shared repeated incidents of violence and sexual assault without apparent purpose. The speech, and the fact Morrison was the one giving it, drew immediate criticism from many people, including fierce survivor activist, Grace Tame.
The National Summit on Women’s Safety, created and held by the Morrison Government, has been established to help inform the development of the next National Plan to end violence against women and children. Over the course of two days, speeches and roundtables featuring experts, advocates, services providers and people with lived experience will explore the issues faced by women and children experiencing violence in Australia.
It comes off the back of the federal government having to reckon with allegations of sexual assault, with allegations made by Brittany Higgins, and, separately, against Federal Minister Christian Porter, being made public this year. (Porter has strongly denied any wrongdoing.)
In his keynote speech for the summit, Morrison claimed that he has received “hundreds of letters and emails” from women sharing their experiences or those of family and friends. He said that he believed some of these stories were “scarcely shared with anyone before”, and detailed “the most anguished and personal experiences of their lives”.
After a short disclaimer about “confronting material”, Morrison then went into detail about some of the things Australian women of all ages have told him.
Morrison spoke specifically about a woman who had been suffering with her trauma for 60 years, using it to make a point about how far back the country’s issues go. He spoke about a woman who had to sit metres away from her attackers in court to give evidence, and how it re-traumatised her.
This approach didn’t go unnoticed, with Grace Tame swiftly pointing out that the PM’s inclusion of the traumatic experiences of Australian women could be seen as a way to boost his own image immediately after admitting the nation has a serious problem with gendered violence and inequality.
But how many people has the Prime Minister potentially re-traumatised with his keynote speech, which was blasted on national TV on Monday morning? And to what benefit? To make him seem like someone trustworthy enough that you can open your trauma vault up to, and share some of your innermost demons?
Morrison didn’t identify the people he spoke about, but he also didn’t make it clear whether he had explicit consent to re-tell their experiences on a national platform.
In response to Tame’s tweet slamming the PM’s speech, Tasmanian MP Brian Mitchell said personal information shared with politicians should never be disclosed “without the express permission” of the person, and even then it should only be used to further the interests of that person.
Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. As MPs we are often told deeply personal information and it should never be disclosed without the express permission of those to whom the story belongs, and only then to further THEIR interests.
— Brian Mitchell MP (@BrianMitchellMP) September 6, 2021
This keynote is also coming from the same summit that did not personally invite Brittany Higgins – who was allegedly sexually assaulted in Parliament House – who instead had to get an invite through the Victims of Crime Commission and the ACT Government at the last minute.
On another note, I’d like to give a big thank-you to the ACT Government and the Victims of Crime Commission who kindly stepped in at the last minute to have me invited as a delegate to listen in to today’s event. (2/2)
— Brittany Higgins (@BrittHiggins_) September 6, 2021
In their defence, they did invite me, if only out of obligation and to co-opt some messaging; to tick some boxes. As for snubbing Brittany, what a missed opportunity to extend an olive branch. It’s beyond disappointing and hurtful, but very telling.
— Grace Tame (@TamePunk) September 6, 2021
Higgins also came out swinging against the speech from Morrison, saying the “platitudes and warm sentiments” were completely at odds with the government’s actions – like voting against 49 out of 55 recommendations to make workplaces safer for women.
The mind boggles.
Help is available.
If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.
If you’d like to speak to someone about domestic violence or sexual assault, please call the 1800RESPECT hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.