On Monday, top Australian policymakers, including both party leaders and the Speaker and President of Senate, formally apologised for the culture of bullying, abuse, sexual harassment and violence that exists within the halls of parliament, with explicit remorse directed to former staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleges a colleague raped her at Parliament House in 2019. 

"I am sorry. We are sorry," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said to past and present parliamentary employees. 

"I am sorry to Miss Higgins for the terrible things that took place here. And that what should have been a place for safety and contribution turned out to be a nightmare," he continued. "I want this to be a place where young Australians, and young women, in particular, can follow their dreams and not have them crushed by brutality and the misuse of power."

The apology comes after a year of outraged protests and the release of a damning report by Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins. The report found over half of all people currently employed in Australia’s federal parliament have experienced bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault.

One day after the apology by top lawmakers, Higgins and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame addressed the National Press Club — the country’s most recognised forum for discussion and debate — to condemn the government's "warm sentiments" and lack of clear, critical action when it comes to tackling violence against women.

Their powerful speeches once again struck a chord with feminists and violence survivors across the country. 

"In the national conversation, we have this passive, anonymous language vaguely talking about ‘wrongs done’ as if sexual violence falls out of the sky. As if it is perpetrated by no-one. As if it is inflicted on no-one,” Higgins said, a statement that was then backed up by Tame. 

"Unless our leaders take full responsibility for their own failings, abuse culture will continue to thrive inside parliament, setting a corrupt standard for the rest of the nation. It rots from the top,” Tame explained. “And by full responsibility,’ I mean proactive, preventative measures — not these reactive, band aid, electioneering stunts like acknowledging past harm at the last minute.”

Below, we’ve compiled just some of the reactions from activists, women, campaigners and supporters to both the Australian Government’s formal apology and the subsequent speeches from two of the most inspiring, prominent champions of sexual assault reform the country has ever seen.

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11 Powerful Reactions From Australians After Parliament’s Apology for Culture of Abuse

By Madeleine Keck