Who is Grace Tame?
Last week, Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year for 2021.
At only 15, Grace was sexually abused by her 58-year-old teacher, Nicolaas Bester, who served time in jail for his repeated offences, the molestation and grooming of Grace. In addition to the horrors Grace faced during her school years, Bester bragged about his crimes on social media, posting, 'The majority of men in Australia envy me...I was 59, she was 15 going on 25. It was awesome.'
Three years ago, Grace started the #LetHerSpeak campaign. Alongside Marque Lawyers, journalist Nina Funnell and End Rape On Campus Australia, their campaign worked to eliminate the gag clauses in Tasmanian law.
Tasmania’s Evidence Act prevented survivors from speaking out against perpetrators and about their experiences, yet the media could (and the perpetrators, too). To highlight the extent of the law, in 2012 a Tasmanian newspaper was fined $20,000 for publishing the name of a victim, even with her consent.
In 2020, the law was changed, finally allowing victims in Tasmania to speak out against their perpetrators. Grace was the first female survivor to be named after accessing a court exemption to publicly speak about the crimes that were committed against her.
Her trailblazing efforts to return power to survivors of sexual violence is one of the most significant campaigns in recent years, she is a deserving recipient of the award.
An extract from her speech:
"I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15, anorexic; he was 58, he was my teacher. For months he groomed me and then abused me almost every day. Before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor. I didn't know who I was. Publicly he described his crimes as 'awesome' and 'enviable'. Publicly I was silenced by law. Not anymore. Australia, we've come a long way but there's still more work to do in a lot of areas. Child sexual abuse and cultures that enable it still exist. Grooming and its lasting impacts are not widely understood. Predators manipulate all of us. Family, friends, colleagues, strangers, in every class, culture and community. They thrive when we fight amongst ourselves and weaponise all of our vulnerabilities. Trauma does not discriminate, nor does it end when the abuse itself does.
Watch the full speech here, via ABC news: