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The Australian Women's Weekly|Christmas 2021
After enduring a traumatic and very public ordeal, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has become a catalyst for change.
Brittany Higgins

This past year has been a momentous one for women in Australia, and much of the shift in public consciousness can be traced back to one young woman’s courage and honesty in speaking her truth. But this time last year, Brittany Higgins admits she wasn’t at all sure she was made of strong enough stuff to weather the storm that would surely follow if she spoke out about the sexual assault that she alleged she’d been subjected to in her workplace. Particularly as hers was the most powerful and intimidating workplace in Australia – Federal Parliament House.

“It was a sombre Christmas, to be honest,” the 27-year-old former Liberal staffer confesses, casting her mind back to last year. “The Four Corners story [about sexual harassment in the Federal Parliament] had recently aired, and I realised it wasn’t just me who’d gone through this experience in Parliament House … I was trying to grapple with questions like: Is this a workplace I can continue in? And if I’m leaving, am I going quietly?”

January rolled around. At home in Canberra, the weather was hot and stifling. Brittany watched the Prime Minister present awards to a groundbreaking all-female cohort of Australians of the Year, including Grace Tame, the livewire young advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. It was a bitter-sweet day for Brittany.

“I was in awe of the work [journalist] Nina Funnell and Grace had done on the Let Her Speak campaign,” she begins, quietly. “I thought it was incredible, but … I felt it was hypocritical for someone from the government to be standing on this stage, giving this award, when they weren’t affording people within their own workspaces the opportunity to speak openly about sexual harassment and assault. I was elated the issue was getting national recognition, I was elated for Grace, but then it was also tinged with this real sadness. It really hurt. It was actually a really hard day.”

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