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Grace Tame says she was urged not to criticise Scott Morrison in ‘threatening’ call from government-funded organisation


Grace Tame has claimed she received a ‘threatening” phone call from a senior staffer of a government-funded organisation urging her not to criticise Scott Morrison in the lead-up to the 2022 Australia of the Year Awards.

In a speech made at the National Press Club today, Ms Tame, the 2021 Australian of the Year, told of how the staffer urged her against calling out the actions of the prime minister, on the evening of the next Australian of the Year Awards.

Advocate for survivors of sexual assault and abuse, Grace Tame during their address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on Wednesday 9 February 2022. (ABC)

The phone call occurred on August 17 last year, seven months after Ms Tame was named Australian of the Year, she said.

“‘You are an influential person. He will have a fear,’ they said,” Ms Tame said in her speech.

“They fear? What kind of fear – I asked myself. A fear for our nation’s most vulnerable?

“A fear for the future of our plan? And then I heard the words – ‘with an election coming soon.'”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison smiles alongisde 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame at the Lodge in Canberra. (Alex Ellinghausen)

Ms Tame was condemned by some for perceived impoliteness, while many others praised her for refusing to compromise her opinions for a photo opportunity.

Mr Morrison said later he had “raised no issues” with the photos, calling Ms Tame “passionate” and thanking her for her work as Australian of the Year.

Ms Tame herself said women were “sick” of being told to smile.

When questioned about the incident she simply replied: “I act with integrity. That’s it.”

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Ms Tame went on to say she believed Mr Morrison feared being discredited if she spoke her mind about his handling of issues of harassment and abuse faced by Australian woman

“A fear he might lose his position or, more to the point, his power,” she said.

“Sound familiar to anyone? Well, it does to me.”

“Repeatedly this year, I have seen the patterns of deception and deceit performed by predators mimicked in our halls of power. And that’s just it.”

Advocate for survivors of sexual assault and abuse, Grace Tame during their address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on Wednesday 9 February 2022. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Advocate for survivors of sexual assault and abuse, Grace Tame during their address to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on Wednesday 9 February 2022. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen (Alex Ellinghausen)

Ms Tame delved into how threats and a culture of fear perpetuated environments were abuse could be perpetrated.

“I remember standing in the shadow of a trusted authority figure, being threatened in just the same veiled way,” she said.

“I remember him saying I will lose my job if anyone hears about that – ‘and you would not want that, would you? No.’

“What I wanted at that moment is the same thing I want right now – and that is an end to the darkness, an end to sexual violence, safety, equity, respect, a better future for all of us.”

Tame’s child abuser kept an envelope of her hair

Ms Tame was groomed, stalked and sexually abused by a teacher at her high school in Tasmania from 1992 until she reported him in 2011 when she was 16 years old.

She said he had been known to be a predator before she was even born and spoke about other men and women who witnessed his behaviour during his 18-year tenure.

They told her they wished they had not “turned a blind eye”.

2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame during the 2022 Australian of the Year awards reception at Government House in Canberra on Monday 24 January 2022. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame during the 2022 Australian of the Year awards reception at Government House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen (Sydney Morning Herald)

“Who, now wishing they hadn’t, smiled through it, along with 28 multimedia files of child abuse material which included nine files of videos of adults penetrating children,” she said.

“The police found a trophy file of students both in uniform and topless on his computer, all of whom either came from broken homes like me or lived in the boarding house away from their families.”

Among the items collected was an envelope full of Ms Tame’s own hair which was then returned to her by police.

Despite all this, Ms Tame said she’s been subjected to abuse and online vitriol, with some people still blaming her for her own abuse.

“But, sure, I was the predator. It was all my fault,” she said.

“If I can still be shamed into believing that today, it is no wonder that even amid this national reckoning, with all the empowerment it has generated for survivors, many still remain hesitant to publicly come forward with their stories.

For years Tasmania’s gag laws meant Ms Tame was unable to speak out, while her abuser bragged on Facebook.

She went on to win permission from the Supreme Court to tell her story in 2019.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

National Domestic Violence Service: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

If you are in immediate danger call Triple Zero (000).

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