Former Australian of the Year Grace Tame and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ powerful speeches  at the National Press Club on Wednesday advocated for change in how cases of sexual abuse of women and children are handled.

Tame and Higgins were also applauded for their statements urging for protections for LGBTQI students. The comments made by the two survivors at the National Press Club, comes in the background of Scott Morrison’s Religious Discrimination Bill making news for all the wrong reasons.

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The Bill, with the stated aim to protect religious freedom, has been criticised for including provisions that would discriminate against LGBTQI people, disabled persons, women and minority groups.

Deeply Triggering Debates

 

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During the Q&A sessions after their speeches, a journalist asked Tame and Higgins whether the Parliament was doing enough to protect the rights of LGBT students.

“No,” responded Tame, who was blunt in her assessment. “Why does one group of people have more of a right to be themselves than another? That’s what I have to ask the government?”

Higgins urged for more sensitivity in the discussions (around the religious discrimination bill), pointing out that it could be traumatising for LGBTQI students. 

“I think there has to be a real sensitivity afforded in the dialogue,” said Higgins. She referred to the debate around the Marriage Equality vote in 2017.  

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“I know that around the referendum, a lot of people were deeply re-traumatised by that whole conversation. Obviously, I am not a journalist. And but I just implore sensitivity of everyone when having these discussions, because these are people’s lives and these are people’s identities. And it’s it’s a deeply triggering and difficult time for them. So I can’t even imagine how they’d be feeling having to listen to all this play out right now.”

‘Kill The Bill’

LGBTQI organisations like Equality Australia have asked the Parliament to bin the bill.

“The Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill is broken and flawed. In its current form, it would take us backwards. It would wind back hard-fought rights for women, people with disability, LGBTIQ+ people and people of faith, while compromising judgement-free access to healthcare, and safe and inclusive schools and workplaces,” Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia said in a statement. 

“If the Government will not go back to the drawing board to deliver laws that protect all of us, equally, it is the Parliament’s job to ensure the Bill does not take us backwards.”

The federal government this week came up with a new plan to get the Bill passed in Parliament following objections over provisions that would entrench the existing rights of faith-based schools to expel gay and trans students. The new proposal suggested changes in the law to prohibit faith-based schools from expelling gay students, but allowing them to retain the right to expel trans students.

If you feel distressed reading the story, you can reach out to support services.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

 

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