When Grace Tame from Tasmania fled to Santa Barbara in California in 2019, she was diagnosed with high functioning autism. This diagnosis, coming nine years after the abuse event began, filled in an important piece of the puzzle that had led to her being abused by a pedophile, while a pupil at a Catholic college in Australia.

The furore that followed her speaking out, and her subsequent choice as the 2021 ‘Australian of the Year’, stirred up controversy. Media interest in female and child sexual exploitation became a hot topic. There was the ‘Me Too Movement’ in the United States and the suicide in prison of convicted child abuser, Jeffrey Epstein.

In Australia, the debate about a low representation of women in Federal parliament had been raging.

Grace had been chosen to speak out and represent those she had been supporting. What came as a shock to many, and brought shame on the Coalition in power in Australia, was the fact that Grace Tame had the courage to really SPEAK OUT. In fact, she roared out her message to Australia and the world!

Grace, no longer ‘Tame’, finished her speech of acceptance with the words:

‘Well hear me now. Using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced. Let’s make some noise, Australia.’

The law in Tasmania preventing her to speak out about her abuse had been repealed. She had been able to tell the truth for the first time publicly. She revisited, with internal trepidation, the abuse in her own words, no holds barred.

Grace described the grooming by a male teacher at the school that she attended in Tasmania. ‘I lost my virginity to a pedophile. I was 15, anorexic; he was 58, he was my teacher. He abused me almost every day. Before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor. I didn’t know who I was.’

Support for Grace was overwhelming, outstripping the mean voices against her. It helped that she had found a supportive partner and they worked as a team. She was even able to address the girls at her old school, when she was invited back by the new principal.

Later on she explained how she was speaking out for those suffering from the long-term damage of sexual assault.

‘Predators manipulate all of us. Family, friends, colleagues, strangers, in every class, culture and community. They thrive when we fight amongst ourselves and weaponize all of our vulnerabilities.’

I applauded Grace’s courage under fire and her determination to shake up the system which allows such atrocities to occur. Other young women came out of the woodwork and roared. One of these, Brittany Higgins, was abused in an office of the national parliament. The ensuing furore touched the very fabric of our democratic system. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, fumbled when trying to find an honest response to these incidents, which were handled badly by officials.

Government officials were caught unawares by the force, commitment and voice of this elected ‘Australian of the Year’ for 2021.

This brave young woman has established, with her partner, a trust fund in her name to support all the victims of abuse that have been coming out of the shadows, thousands of them, requesting to be heard. And that task, gargantuan and ongoing, she has taken on in her inimitable way.

Grace Tame has lived in the US and came close to one of its many mass gun murders. She is no slouch at expressing her opinion on gun ownership and gun control in her second home of America. See her opinion article in the Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday, December 1, 2022: Land of the Gun at War With Itself or I Was Nearby For One of the Many US Gun Massacres. Thoughts and Prayers Did Nothing (November 30, 2022)

These opinions expressed by Grace are typical of Australians’ and others’ incomprehension at the ongoing mass shootings, and the difficulties faced by American law-makers and reasonable citizens in the USA to meet and deal head-on with the awful dilemma of gun laws in the country. I acknowledge, too, the dismay of our American friends at the ongoing slaughter of their citizens. It reminds me of the anti-war-time songs of the sixties, like Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’

Feature Photo: Making her powerful acceptance speech for the Australian of the Year title: Photo by (Alex Ellinghausen/Sydney Morning Herald)