Brittany Higgins has delivered a powerful message in a surprise appearance at the women’s ‘March for Justice’ protest in Canberra.
The former liberal staffer made national news last month after going public with her sexual assault allegations in Parliament House.
She claims that she was raped by a colleague in the Defence Minister’s Office back in March 2019 and that officials went out of their way to avoid accountability.
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Channel 10 Presenter Lisa Wilkinson was lined up to speak on her behalf and deliver a message to thousands of people in Canberra today.
But instead, she introduced Ms Higgins to the stage, to speak for herself.
“I speak to you today out of necessity. We are all here today not because we want to be here but because we have to be here.
“We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place, and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institution.
“We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight,” she began.
She spoke about her harrowing experience in trying to come to terms with what had happened, and how her colleagues then treated her.
“I was raped inside Parliament House by a colleague, and for so long it felt like the people around me neither cared because of what happened for what it might mean for them.
“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. And suddenly they treated me differently. I was not a person who had just gone through a life-changing event, I was a political problem.
Since going public, Ms Higgins says she’s been holed up in her dad’s apartment on the Gold Coast for weeks, while the media frenzy over her allegations rocked Parliament house.
“These past few weeks on a personal level have been extremely difficult. Like many of you, I have watched this all play out in the media.
“I watched it happen via and laptop in a spare bedroom in my dad’s apartment on the Gold Coast, I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately the media team actively undermined and discredited my love ones.
Ms Higgins, through tears, then uses her story to call for change.
“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.
“I decided to resign and share my story because I felt it was the only thing that I could do to say that I didn’t co-sign this behaviour,” she said.
And finally, Ms Higgins sought to empower women all over the country who may have had similar experiences not to be afraid to speak up.
“I encourage each and every one of you to set boundaries for yourself and be ruthless in your defence of them.
“Speak up. Share your truth and know that you have a generation of women ready, willing and able to support you.
“Take ownership of your story and free yourself from the stigma of shame.
“Together, we can bring about real, meaningful reform to the workplace culture inside Parliament House and, hopefully, every workplace, to ensure the next generation of women can benefit from a safer and more equitable Australia,” she said.
Crowds cheered and cried for the young woman who moved a nation into action over her harrowing experience at the nation’s centre of power.
Around the country, crowds have gathered in all capital cities and even regional locations, protesting for the very same cause: women’s safety and equity.
Queensland’s Premier and cabinet ministers are expected to attend the rally held in Brisbane.
“After speaking with the female ministers in my cabinet – we feel very strongly about this,” Annastacia Palasczuk said this morning.
“And we will be absolutely showing our support, after cabinet, we will be going down to Parliament House to show our support for a large number of women around Australia who support that more needs to be done to allows women’s voices to be heard.
“And I can also say that the Deputy Premier and the Treasurer will also be attending,” Premier Palaszczuk said.