Australian of the Year honour marks journalists' fight

A media campaign to change gag laws affecting rape victims has seen sexual abuse advocate Grace Tame named 2021 Australian of the Year.

The award follows a fight for legal reform after Tame, now 26, was groomed and raped by her 58-year-old high school maths teacher.

Tasmanian laws, which previously prohibited sexual assault survivors from identifying themselves, have been changed following the #LetHerSpeak campaign she led with Sydney-based News Corp journalist Nina Funnell.

Despite the fact that the offender had been found guilty and jailed for two years and six months, it took a two-year fight before Tame was able to speak out. News senior legal counsel Gina McWilliams obtained the necessary court order in her favour in the Tasmanian Supreme Court.

The #LetHerSpeak campaign was then launched in Darwin last March, in support of a victim there - where similar laws apply - and reform of the Tasmanian gag law last April led to a gang rape victim speaking out.

The battle is not over however, as new laws with similar effect were introduced in Victoria last year, leading to a new campaign launch under the #LetUsSpeak title. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $85,000, and in October the law was amended, although naming of deceased rape victims there was still outlawed. Pressure forced a change on the law affecting living survivors last November, and the proposed gag on deceased defenders is to be debated this year.

Funnell and news team members Kerry Warren and Lori Youmshajekian won a 2020 Walkley award for public service journalism for their work on the campaign, while Funnell received the 2020 Walkley Our Watch award, a Kennedy award and an MEAA NT media award for her work.

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