Australia's own #MeToo
Updated: Mar 4
This article contains mention of sexual assault allegations and may not be suitable for all readers.
While the #MeToo movement spread across the entire globe upon its inception in 2017, the time we're in right now might be Australia's own #MeToo movement. Allegations and reports of sexual violence and harassment are coming thick and fast from our capital. On 9 November, ABC's Four Corners aired an episode called Inside the Canberra Bubble, that exposed Canberra's (and more specifically, the Liberal Party's) inappropriate treatment of women. Brittany Higgins, now a household name, came forward in mid-February to report an alleged rape, then three more women followed, accusing the same man of sexual violence and harassment. Most recently, the ABC reported that a letter was sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor's Penny Wong, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young and other senators, detailing an alleged rape that occurred in 1988. Another similar letter was sent to Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson, who has revealed that the accused is a sitting Labor MP.
When the allegations and stories began to come out of Canberra, I began to wonder whether this was the beginning of a big shift for the Liberal Party. I wondered if it could impact the outcome of an election, and if we would see a change in government in the upcoming election. Or would the Liberals begin to reform, would we see more women put in winnable seats and a shift in the culture? While the Four Corners episode specifically referred to the Liberal Party's so called 'women problem', it spoke more widely about an issue of inequality in Canberra more generally.
The most recent information that has been released has suggested something we probably already knew. The toxic culture is likely not isolated to the Liberals. As a Labor MP has now come into question, the landscape has changed a little. There is an element of resignation progressives feel toward conservative parties no matter where they live. 'Typical!' they will say. There is even a level of comfort, as disturbing and upsetting as the allegations are. Progressives have come to expect to be disappointed, appalled, and disgusted by the actions of the opposing political side. The same could be said the other way around. But when it happens a little closer to home, it's different.
The Labor Party is arguably closer to the political centre these days, but they are still progressive's 'only hope' for a majority government. The allegations have now spread across both major parties in Australia, so where is the hope now? My hope is that we are at the start of a revolution and a huge shift. Donald Trump's election caused pain and destruction, but it also sparked the start of the #MeToo movement. Is this the start of Australia's very own #MeToo? There's power in numbers, and we've seen the numbers of accusations against government officials grow over the past two weeks. What will come next?