Media Centre - Media release - 23rd February 2021

PLAN INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA STATEMENT ON SEXUAL ASSAULT ALLEGATIONS IN PARLIAMENT HOUSE

In response to the revelations that a fourth female parliament house staffer has come forward with sexual assault allegations against a Liberal Party staffer, Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said today

“Plan International Australia is deeply disturbed by today’s allegation from a fourth female Liberal Party staffer that point to a culture of “don’t ask, don’t tell” about sexual assault in our nations parliament.”

“Following the brave public statements from former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins outlining allegations she was raped in March 2019, three more women have come forward with allegations they were sexually assaulted by the same Liberal staffer.”

“Having worked as a staffer in Parliament House myself, I know first hand the misogynist, toxic culture of secrecy and cover up that exists in some parts of our nation’s parliament – and it is a culture that must be swiftly and decisively changed.”

“We clearly need an independent body within the parliament that has the authority to listen to women’s grievances and respond in appropriate ways – especially when it comes to sexual harassment and rape.”

“We also need a more diverse parliament- this is not just about these incidents – but a whole culture in which toxic attitudes that excuse or trivialise violence against women have gone unchallenged and have been allowed to thrive.”

“Plan International Australia stands with these young women in their quest for justice, and hopes that they are receiving the support they need. Everyone deserves the right to live and work free from fear and violence.”

“These allegations come at the same time as we are seeing reports from young female students in Sydney calling out sexual assault at some of Sydney’s most prestigious private schools.”

“The behaviours described in the testimonies from the girls in the survey- boys having sex with girls while they are passed out intoxicated or unconscious – mirror exactly those we have heard reported in the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins.”

“This is not just about consent, or holistic sexual education – thought that is part of what is needed – we need to be having a national and urgent conversation about male privilege and power.”

“These acts are not being perpetrated by anonymous ‘monsters,’ these are the actions that are coming from the men we trust as friends and colleagues. The ones that claim that they ‘will look after us,’ or ‘keep us safe.’”

“Something is not right in our culture and society and it has to change. We are seeing threads of behaviours that are going unchecked and unchallenged. Who in their right mind believes that having sex with someone unconscious is anything other than rape in 2021?”

For further comment please contact Plan International Australia media and Ambassador manager James Norman on 0451291775 or public relations advisor Claire Knox on 0452326549

BACKGROUND

“In 2017 when Plan In Australia surveyed more than 2000 Australian girls and young women aged 10-25 years about their aspirations for the future only 2% of girls aged 10-14 listed politics as a future career option, rising to 5% for girls 15-17 and the dropping to 0% of young women aged 18-25. Is it any wonder why?

As Asha, age 18, winner of the Plan International Australia’s  MP for a day competition said at the time in the She Can Lead report: “The Prime Minister’s inner circle will influence the decisions they make, both consciously and subconsciously. When you are surrounded by a certain type of people, you tend to be more biased towards that group. Creating a more diverse, gender equal cabinet would have a positive impact on decisions made in Parliament.”

 

Media contacts

James Norman

Media & Ambassador Manager
+61 451 291 775

Claire Knox

Public Relations Advisor
+61 452 326 549

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