Grace Under Fire’: Australian of the Year Grace Tame in intimate, revealing documentary

Grace Tame says abuse survivors remain underrepresented and unheard.

Grace Tame says abuse survivors remain underrepresented and unheard. Photo: ABC

It has been a big year for 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame.

When she accepted the award almost 11 months ago in Canberra for her advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, Ms Tame, 26, promised to “make some noise” and she has.

“This year and beyond my focus is on empowering survivors and education as a primary means of prevention. It starts with conversation,” she said at the time.

“We’re all welcome at this table. Communication breeds understanding and understanding is the foundation of progress.”

Her acceptance speech kickstarted a rollercoaster year of public speaking and media appearances, as she went on to become one of the most outspoken recipients of the award in its 62-year history.

Ms Tame also sat for an Archibald Prize portrait, was named one of Time‘s next generation leaders, and twice featured on the cover of Marie Claire, with the second appearance a joint cover with Brittany Higgins.

Now, she’s closing the year with an intimate and revealing Australian Story on Monday night, looking back over her tenure as Australian of the Year and the difficult journey that led her there.

Ms Tame is launching a foundation to try to prevent what happened to her from happening to others. Photo: AAP

Virtually unemployed when she received the award, Ms Tame was thrust into the limelight and required to tell the story of her abuse again and again while still processing those traumatic events.

As she told her audience that night: “All survivors of child sexual abuse, this is for us”.

The ABC published her speech in full here on January 26, 2021: 

“Australia, we’ve come a long way, but there’s still more work to do in a lot of areas,” Ms Tame said.

“Child sexual abuse and cultures that enable it still exist. Grooming and its lasting impacts are not widely understood.”

She was inundated with messages from other abuse survivors and the cause she advocated for was swept into a broader national conversation about the treatment of women.

As she insists to Marie Claire, she is “just one domino” in what she has achieved.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” she said.

“Brittany Higgins, Chanel Contos, Julia Banks and Christine Holgate are all women who’ve bravely stood up against abuse culture in all its forms.

“And there are so many unsung heroes. I share all my achievements with a huge collective.”

Ms Tame spoke at a March 4 Justice rally in Hobart. Photo: AAP

Marie Claire reports Ms Tame’s fight isn’t over, as she now plans “to overhaul legislation and education on child sexual abuse when she sets up the Grace Tame Foundation in 2022”.

“I think I started the year with a lot of naivety, and I’ve realised that it’s dirty out there,” she said.

“But I’ve also learnt that one of the most important things about being an effective leader is knowing when to admit weakness and error, because there’s great strength in [that]. You have to know the difference between having power and empowering.”

In her Australian of The Year speech, Ms Tame said she was “shamed and ridiculed by some” after reporting the abuse.

“But now my truth is helping to reconnect us. I know who I am, I’m a survivor. A proud Tasmanian,” she said.

“Well, hear me now. Using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced.

“Let’s make some noise, Australia.”

Eleven months on, Ms Tame tells Australian Story: “My job is to hear and stand with the oppressed and if I have a platform that allows me to do that, you bet your arse I’m going to use it.”

Lifeline 131 114

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Australian Story airs on Monday, November 22 at 8pm on ABC TV and ABC iview

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