Trigger warning: this article discusses topics surrounding sexual assault.
Australian of the Year, Grace Tame is Reclaiming the Body and Voice for All Sexual Assault Saviours
"Well hear me now. Using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced" - Grace Tame
Poignant, powerful, blazing and courageous are just a few words to describe the inspiring individual who has been crowned Australian of the Year for 2021.
On the 25th of January, The Australian of the Year Awards honoured four exceptional women who in their own right, are breaking taboos, paving the way for change and fearlessly using their voice to speak for the voiceless.
One of the extraordinary Australians, who won the nation’s top honour is 26-year-old sexual abuse survivor and advocate, Grace Tame who lead the fight to overturn a gag-law preventing sexual assault survivors from self-identifying the media.
At 15, Grace Tame was groomed and sexually violated by her maths teacher. Her abuser was jailed for his crimes. Despite his body being physically detained, he was still allowed the liberty to speak, rather brag about his transgressions to the public, with the media being free to report upon the crime. Grace, however, was not able to speak about her lived experience publicly due to Tasmania’s sexual assault victim gag laws.
For nine years, Grace was silenced.
The belief that “every voice matters” lead Grace to become the catalyst of the #LetHerSpeak movement that assisted victims who could not be shown or named in the media. With the support of the campaign, Grace applied to the Supreme Court for the right to publicly self-identity as a rape survivor and won.
"It starts with conversation …When we share, we heal”.
Grace shared her moving story at the Australian of the Year Awards. She presented a 5-minute speech that was nothing short of extraordinary.
There was something so gratifying witnessing Grace haloed in light. The hidden figure that was shadowed and silenced for 9 years now situated in front of a microphone, centre stage, her face lit and finally able to be seen and heard was enough to move everyone present in the room and myself watching through my phone to tears.
"We do transform as individuals. And we do transform as a community”
Grace is a figure of hope. Hope for the future and hope that survivor stories will inspire others and fill them with the fire to come forward and share their experiences. There is nothing wrong with speaking out, shame is fostered by ignorance and power is created through resonance.
Everyone has the ability to communicate, it is now how we choose to acknowledge these communications that will make a difference.
For help in a crisis call 000. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.
WRITTEN BY SARAH DOYLE