Brittany Higgins has delivered a powerful speech at the March 4 Justice rally calling out the "broken system and the "significant failings in the power structures".
Ms Higgins spoke out against sexual assault on women and her alleged rape in Parliament House by a colleague in 2019.
Ms Higgins quit her job as a media adviser and went public in a hope she could protect other women from traumatic incidents at work.
Speaking today outside Parliament House in Canberra, Ms Higgins said she came forward about the alleged rape to "protect other women", saying by staying silent she would have felt as though she was being complicit.
"I speak to you today out of necessity," she told a vocal audience at the rally.
"We are all here today not because we want to be here, because we have to be here."
A huge part why #march4justice is happening is the courage of Brittany Higgins - a young woman that party machinery &parliamentary culture tried to exploit and silence - speaking truth to power.
We won’t meet with the PM in her alleged crime scene. He can come to us, and listen.
— Sally Rugg (@sallyrugg) March 14, 2021
Brittany Higgins calls out Scott Morrison, calls for action
Holding back tears, Ms Higgins had some strong words for Scott Morrison, as she addressed how the last few weeks have been for her.
"I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his media team actively undermined and discredited my loved ones," she said.
Brittany Higgins is attending the parliament house rally.
She's in suffragette white.
She is by no means the only survivor in that crowd of thousands, but she is one who is instantly recognisable - it is a very, very brave act.
— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) March 15, 2021
"I was waking up to new information about my own sexual assault through the media. Details that were never disclosed to me by my employers, information that would have helped me as questions that have haunted me for years.
"I watched as people hid behind throwaway phrases like 'due process' and 'presumption of innocence' while failing to acknowledge how the justice system is notoriously stacked against victims of sexual crime."
'This isn't a political problem'
She said this was not a political problem, rather a human problem, though noted the leaders of Australia must lead by example and be the “gold standard”.
“If they aren't committed to addressing these issues in their own offices, what confidence can the women of Australia have that they will be proactive in addressing this issue in the broader community?” she said.
“This isn't a political problem. This is a human problem.
“We've all learned over the past few weeks just how common gendered violence is in this country. It's time our leaders on both sides of politics stop avoiding the public and side-stepping accountability. It's time we actually address the problem.”
— Antoun Issa (@antissa) March 15, 2021
She called out the "advice" defence chief Angus Campbell gave - on how victims can "not to fall prey" to abusers.
“Advice aimed solely at modifying the behaviour of victims and does nothing to address the actions of perpetrators,” Ms Higgins said.
Ms Higgins pointed out, one out of three women would be sexually assaulted or raped in their lifetime, and that number is higher for women of colour.
Ms Higgins said the past few weeks have been “extremely difficult” for her on a personal level.
She spoke of how she was suddenly treated differently, how she felt she was no longer a person, but rather a "political problem".
"I was raped inside Parliament House by a colleague, and for so long it felt like the people around me neither cared because of where it happened or what it might mean for them," Ms Higgins said.
"It was so confusing because these people were my idols. I had dedicated my life to them.
"They were my social network, colleagues, and my family. As suddenly they treated me differently. I was not a person who had just gone through a life-changing event, I was a political problem."
Not sure I quite have the words to describe Brittany Higgins returning to Parliament House to address the massive #March4Justice. An absolute powerhouse. A force of nature. That speech, I think (I hope) will go down in history. Seeing the effect on people here was extraordinary
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) March 15, 2021
Grace Tame speaks at Hobart rally
The March 4 Justice rallies are being held across Australia to protest the unacceptable treatment of women in the workplace and the community and the right of women to feel safe.
Australian of the Year Grace Tame addressed the Hobart rally about her advocacy for other victims of sexual assault.
"Evil thrives in silence. Behaviour unspoken, behaviour ignored, is behaviour endorsed," she said.
"But if one of these barriers to progress is silenced, like I've just identified, which is quite simple, it gives me hope. Because the start of the solution is also quite simple - MAKING NOISE!"
— Sarah Maunder (@s_maunder) March 15, 2021
PM savaged in parliament for 'not listening' to women
In parliament, Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the marches, saying it was "good and right".
"So many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capital or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations," he said.
"This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr Speaker, not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country."
The PM said he did respect the March 4 Justice's organiser's decision to not meet with him today and eluded to the petition which calls for a "full independent investigations into all cases of gendered violence and timely referrals to appropriate authorities".
Meanwhile Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Morrison needs to "listen to what women are saying", while calling for an independent inquiry into what has happened within parliament.
Mr Albanese read Ms Higgins' comments about the PM while addressing parliament, he was later asked if his media team "actively undermined and discredited" Ms Higgins' loved ones.
"I have no knowledge of that and would never instruct that," Mr Morrison said.
"The apology offered to Brittany Higgins in this place was sincere and was genuine. I'm happy to restate it."
The prime minister has continued to say he had no knowledge of an instant of sexual assault which happened metres from his office, something some former Liberal politicians have said is "implausible".
More to come.
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