Shivani Gopal

Shivani Gopal

April 14, 2021
| Womens Advocacy

Founder’s Weekly: Christian Porter, free period products, Women’s History Month and the #PrivilegeTax Initiative

Here’s your one-stop-shop of women's news for the week!

Fellow remarkable women,

As the seasons change, so too does the political climate in Australia. More and more women are speaking up about the injustices they are suffering from the leaders of our country - shining a spotlight on the prevalent issues plaguing the halls of Parliament House. That said, there’s also still plenty to celebrate, so let’s talk about NSW’s free period product plan, Women’s History Month, and the #PrivilegeTax Initiative!

 

Australian Parliament’s problem with women 

As all of you know, the Australian Government has been under heavy fire the past few days. Rape allegations across the entire board have begun arising ever since Brittany Higgins came forward with the story of her sexual assault, with more women comfortable to speak out and sharing their experiences.

Most recently, Attorney-General Christian Porter has come forward and identified himself as the man at the centre of some of these rape allegations. The Australian Federal Police have been notified of a letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison detailing an alleged historical rape by a Cabinet Minister in the federal government. The letter requested urgent action be taken by ScoMo to investigate the alleged rape, which occurred in 1988 before the accused man entered politics.

Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman's formal statement in March 2020, but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak erupted and state borders were closed.

Unfortunately, the unnamed woman’s mental health deteriorated in the weeks before she took her life. She had made previous suicide attempts. Her death means that criminal investigation into the politician can no longer proceed because the allegation cannot be tested. However, in her statement, she writes:

"This is my story, plain and simple. It's not pretty, but it is mine. And I stand by it, every single word and image in this document is true."

She then states she was anally raped by Attorney-General Christian Porter when she was 16.

Porter’s response has been to categorically deny all allegations, that he will not step down and will take a period of leave instead.

“I can say to you all, it didn’t happen. But I can’t criticise or mount a defence or cross-examination of someone. I am just not going to do that to the family of this poor woman… If I stand down from my position as Attorney-General because of an allegation about something that simply did not happen, then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print.”

Now, I’d like to remind everyone that this is not the first time Porter has been accused of abusing his power. His university cohort confirms he treated women as “jokes” and would ridicule their appearance. In a Four Corners report last year, he was accused of being deeply sexist, a misogynist, and having an affair with a junior staffer. In the same report, former Liberal advisor Rachelle Miller said she had been accosted by a drunk Porter following a parliamentary event. Barrister, Kathleen Foley, who has known Porter for the majority of her life, has said, “For a long time, Christian has benefited from the silence around his conduct and his behaviour.”

Yes, the police may consider the case closed, but we’re a long way from finding any sort of closure in the public sphere. Something is deeply rotten in the state of Australian politics. Our political leaders make decisions that are, in part, based on their own beliefs and moralities – decisions that affect the lives of every Australian. And, when those beliefs and moralities are skewed, when they perpetuate a culture of abuse and assault against women, it’s no surprise then that Australian women are suffering.

As Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has stated, the issue is not resolved.

“There is a real sense out there in the community that issues like this need to be taken much more seriously.”

We need an independent inquiry, and we need drastic change to the policies and mentalities of our nation’s leaders. We need tougher standards that must be enforced. If ScoMo wants us to in his words of sexual equality and the support of survivors, then he needs to put his money where his mouth is.

NSW trials free period products

In more uplifting news, following New Zealand’s commitment to supply free period products to young people, the NSW Department of Education has stated it will trial a pilot program which provides free pads and tampons to students to counter period poverty in the state.

While it might seem surprising, period poverty is a very real issue in Australia.

Co-founder of not-for-profit enterprise TABOO, Isobel Marshall, states:

“In Australia … period poverty does exist, whereby students don’t have access to product, but it can also just look like having to miss a day off work because of your period.”

Meanwhile, a study conducted by QUT in 2020 found that teachers would often donate period products to students at school, while girls reported using rolled up toilet paper or socks in the absence of appropriate products, and there was a general lack of knowledge about menstrual hygiene among students. The report has suggested reducing period poverty could reduce school absenteeism, reduce shame and embarrassment, and improve physical and mental health for students.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

It’s Women’s History Month, and what a wonderful month it is! Without even counting the numerous inspirational women we have encountered recently around the world, there have been women throughout history who have been making waves and championing change.

Think of Marie Curie, whose research paved the way for cancer research, or Rosa Parks, who championed for quality for POC in America; Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and aviation legend Amelia Earhart.

There are so many remarkable women for us to look up to – women who defied the odds and navigated the uncertain waters of history, paving the way for all of us today. If you’re interested, Nexstar Media has also put together this list of amazing reads about some of history’s most inspiring women. I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions as well!

Introducing the #PrivilegeTax Initiative

Is there anything this woman can’t do? Tennis pro, Venus Williams, has recently kickstarted an initiative that aims to close the gender pay gap. This month, Venus is drawing attention to wage inequality and urging companies to donate 19 cents for every dollar spent, with proceeds going to Girls Inc. of Greater Los Angeles, a charity committed to inspiring girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Already, brands such as Credo Beauty, Carbon 38, Ellevest, Asutra, Happy Viking, Tracy Anderson Fitness, Goal Five, Society Nine, Angel City, Sideman Bancroft LLP and more companies have joined Williams and added #PrivilegeTax to their websites as well.

The movement is part of a new program that will also serve as a platform of resources for young women to get inspired and address the issue head-on. Now that’s an initiative I can get behind!

Until next week, 

Shivani

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