Brittany Higgins
Former staffer Brittany Higgins interviewed on The Project (Image: Channel 10)

Australian women have shown their power and ferocity in 2021, calling out not only sexual violence but the inadequate responses and victim-blaming rhetoric that goes with it.

It’s been an incredibly tumultuous year for women but we are not just victims: we are the survivors, the fighters and the mechanisms for change. That’s exactly what women have spent the past 12 months doing, in between shouldering an unequal division of household labour, supporting one another through sexual violence claims and dominating essential services roles during the pandemic.

It’s been a tumultuous year. Let’s take a look back through Crikey’s coverage of it.

When the pandemic hit, it emerged women were Australia’s most essential workers — and also the most vulnerable. Georgia Wilkins questioned whether we would recognise the role of women once it was all over.

Locked inside and working from home caused domestic violence rates to soar while a Senate inquiry into domestic violence, established after the murder of Hannah Clarke, ended prematurely

In June, former High Court justice Dyson Heydon was revealed to be a serial sexual harasser, accused of sexual misconduct by a raft of women throughout his career. It was moment that, as Bernard Keane wrote, showed how good the legal industry was at hiding sexual harassment.

Soon after AMP’s Boe Pahari stepped down following similar accusations, with Crikey analysing workplace harassment — and the role cash plays in morals — in a three-part series.

Geoffrey Rush won his huge defamation suit against The Daily Telegraph, showing once again how Australia’s defamation laws have hindered the Me Too movement. Crikey covered the story in an in-depth series and podcast.

Victoria’s sexual assault laws then went backwards — only to be swiftly reversed thanks to advocacy from the LetUsSpeak campaign by Nina Funnell and the work of Crikey contributor Michael Bradley

In August Kamala Harris was announced as running mate for then US presidential candidate Joe Biden. She may well become the country’s first female president.

Back in Australia, the October budget did fuck all to address any of the systemic inequalities and pressing issues mentioned above, with women largely left behind and male-dominated industries benefiting.

Then in February of this year, former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped in Defence Minister Linda Reynold’s office and was made to feel her job was on the line for it. The Office for Women and Minister for Women Marise Payne remained silent and immobilised while the government did pretty much everything wrong.

The commentary was once again, appalling, with the Old Boys Club stepping up to provide misinformed insight no one asked for.

Crikey was soon reporting on rape allegations made against Attorney-General Christian Porter — then unnamed — working with violence against women advocacy group to outline the behaviours which led up to the alleged attack. We’ve covered the issue extensively, calling for accountability through an inquiry. 

Given this year’s International Women’s Day theme of “Choose to Challenge”, my message to anyone reading this is choose to stay angry. Keep fighting for accountability. Call out behaviour when you see it. And look after yourselves.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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