In an emotional and inspiring step onto the national stage, 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 led a rally cry – “Let’s make some noise Australia” – after accepting the award at a ceremony in Canberra on Monday.
She is the first Tasmanian to win the title.
“Straight to the pool room,” Ms Tame joked, before dedicating the award to all survivors of child sexual abuse.
“This is for us.”
She became the first woman in Tasmania 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.
“I remember him towering over me, blocking the door. I remember him saying ‘don’t tell anybody’. I remember him saying ‘don’t make a sound’,” she said.
“Well hear me now – using my voice against a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced.”
Ms Tame wants a greater focus on education and prevention of child sexual assault, particularly through grooming and psychological manipulation by abusers.
“Yes, discussion of child sexual abuse is uncomfortable but nothing is more uncomfortable than the abuse itself,” she said.
“So let us redirect this discomfort to where it belongs – at the feet of perpetrators of these crimes. Together, we can redefine what it means to be a survivor. Together, we can end child sexual abuse.”
Reflecting on her own experience, she said predators manipulated everyone.
“They thrive when we fight amongst ourselves and weaponise all our vulnerabilities,” Ms Tame said.
“This year and beyond, my focus is on empowering survivors and education as a primary means of prevention.”
After Ms Tame and #Let Her Speak campaign founder Nina Funnell’s advocacy, Tasmania’s laws preventing survivors from speaking out were overturned.
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