In Parliament

Bill Debate - Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022



Thursday, 18 August 2022.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (11:04):

Today is a watershed moment in Victoria.

Today this Parliament is seeing legislation that will set a new community standard—a new community standard that will change cultural norms in the ways we can act to stop and prevent sexual violence, not just the things that we can do to assist with reporting but to change cultural standards in a meaningful way at law, and that is what counts. That will make the difference.

During one of the early lockdowns two young girls were raped in one of the local parks in my community, and, without going into details of the crimes, consent was a significant issue. I spoke to one of the victims’ family at the time, and her story broke my heart.

It was when I first met Chanel Contos, who has been described as—and I think it is probably even an understatement to describe her as—‘a young trailblazer who sparked a national reckoning with sexual consent’. We talked about these laws, about these issues and the need to change cultural norms in this space. I spoke to her last night after the journey since, and she said to me—and she is more than happy for me to put her words into Hansard:

Switching the narrative from ‘no means no’ to ‘only yes means yes’ will have a significant effect on reducing sexual violence. The concept of no means no isn’t good enough when we don’t teach girls and women how to say no.

These proposed laws are an important step towards reducing violence in our community, and I hope we see them replicated across Australia.

I think it is important to take a moment to also acknowledge Chanel and her work in consent, and the way that she as a young person posted on Instagram about consent.

Some of her friends at the time shared her post about issues that they had experienced in terms of sexual violence. She then started a petition amongst young girls—schoolgirls—that today has     45 000 signatures and almost 7000 girls sharing stories of sexual violence. Children are sharing personal stories like that of the girl who was raped in my park.

There are so many strong women who have been behind what we are seeing today who have said we need a new cultural standard, and we need to move from thinking that the concept of no means no is good enough and at law to say that only yes means yes.

This Bill will have a profound impact on our community, on women and on young girls. It will also have a profound impact on what we teach boys.

So, I am so proud to stand here today having spoken with Chanel when that horrible incident happened in my park. Being able to bring her into the Parliament and inviting all of you to be briefed by her on these issues, to then help her meet with the executive in New South Wales after the briefing here and then to do the same in the Federal Government was important.

Her comments calling for laws of this nature to be rolled out across Australia are such important calls, because what we are doing today is going to make a difference in Victoria.

But we need to make that same difference across Australia, and I would say to every Member in this place it is now not just good enough to help the girls and teach the boys in Victoria.

We now need to use our collective voices to continue these reforms in whatever way we can across Australia.