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Calculated distraction: Grace Tame takes aim at Morrison's motives for cabinet reshuffle

Politics

Australian of the Year Grace Tame has taken aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s promotion of more women to cabinet and new special taskforce to improve the treatment of women, claiming it risked being little more than “a calculated distraction.”

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The Tasmanian child sexual abuse survivor warned Morrison’s cabinet reshuffle on Monday, that was designed to give female ministers a bigger say in his government and enhance focus on women’s issues, may not deliver real change for women.

“I think it’s really important to remain hopeful, but at the same time we need to be careful not to be naively misled by actions that are quite calculated distractions posing as solutions,” Tame said.

“Equal representation is not going to address the abuse of power that is at the heart of this.”

Tame, speaking at Griffith University’s In Conversation series held at the Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts, also added her voice to a growing backlash against Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker being elevated as assistant minister for women.

Click here to watch the live stream video of Kerry O’Brien in conversation with Grace Tame, Australian of the Year 2021

Stoker’s appointment has drawn fire over her positions on transgender issues and her strong anti-abortion stance.

Last year, Stoker also criticised then-Queensland opposition leader Deb Frecklington for playing “the gender card” and said it was “a weak thing to do”.

Tame told interviewer Kerry O’Brien she found Stoker’s appointment inappropriate after Stoker campaigned for the rights of alleged perpetrators when Australian universities overhauled sexual assault procedures.

The university changes followed a 2016 Australian Human Rights Commission finding that 51 per cent of domestic students across 39 Australian universities had been sexually harassed on at least one occasion.

“Needless to say that (Stoker’s actions) came at great expense to student survivors who were already traumatised,” Tame said.

Tame said Morrison’s announcements this week were not enough in the current “perfect storm” on the mistreatment of women that has engulfed the government for the past six weeks.

She said women needed to persist for real change.

“There is a danger when rage is not harnessed and converted into something positive. What can happen is we can tire ourselves out and retreat back into silence,” she said.

“So it’s about acknowledging the rage then moving to the next step to action, no matter how small those actions are. It’s about taking those little steps and being consistent and relentless.”

Tame said Morrison and members of the government should undergo “professional development” and empathy training. “Society is constantly evolving, those who govern it should be too.”

She said the country’s sexual assault laws also needed to be uniform, including the definition of consent, rather than each state and territory having its own interpretation.

Tame said she was proud her story helped former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleges she was raped by another staffer in senior federal minister Linda Reynold’s office, come forward.

“From survivor to survivor my heart was completely shattered because it’s never easy to hear that that is somebody’s experience,” Tame said.

“Although our experiences are different in a lot of ways, it is the same oppression, the same abuse of power, of being manipulated, being exploited.

“To find that my story inspired her makes me incredibly hopeful because we all have that potential – it doesn’t have to be this grand of a scale, just if you tell one of your friends you can be a little domino in the pursuit of creating change.

“It might be just a single signature on a petition or a dollar donation, but it’s the catalytic potential that that has to inspire somebody else to do something and it becomes electrifying.”

Click here to watch the live stream video of Kerry O’Brien in conversation with Grace Tame, Australian of the Year 2021

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