As with other young global activists – think Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafazi – child sexual abuse survivor and activist Grace Tame is a true change-maker. The power of the impassioned message she has voiced since being named 2021 Australian of the Year in January has captured the nation and ignited a revolution, leading to her helming marie claire’s first non-celebrity cover in its 25-year history.
Not that she sees it that way – humbly rejecting the revolutionary tag and instead describing herself as a “tiny domino” who’s helped prompt others into action. Think former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, schoolgirl sexual assault petitioner Chanel Contos and the thousands who attended the rallies against sexual violence and inequality in March. “People are sometimes deterred from action or doubt the value of their contribution in change,” says Tame, 26. “But there’s a whole set of dominos waiting to be pushed over. Just be that one domino. Your tiny little contribution has enormous catalytic potential.”
Adamant that men not be seen as the enemy or that she’s a poster-girl for rage, Tame speaks affectionately of the males in her life who have helped steer her life towards positivity and hope. There’s her partner and “soulmate” Max, who she met last year and describes as the love of her life. “We’ve both been in long-term relationships; I was even married [to actor Spencer Breslin]. But I’m already closer to Max than I was to my husband,” she tells marie claire.
There’s also Dr Simon William, who she trusted with details of the harrowing sexual assault she suffered for years at the hands of fellow school teacher Nicholaas Bester, leading to his arrest. Lastly, her 11-year-old brother, Oscar, who Tame describes as her “little hero”. “He’s a very, very special person. He came into the world right when the abuse started, and pardon the pun, he was a literal saving grace.”
Despite the incredible momentum that has occurred since her heart-pounding Australian of the Year acceptance speech, Tame is clear that a frenzied uprising is not the answer. “We’re all getting very stirred up at the moment. We see these surges and then they die down. What we need to do is sustain a more manageable, reasonable momentum that’s not so overblown, it’s just measured.”
And she’s adamant that she’ll keep fighting the fight long after her reign – until child sexual abuse is eradicated and the laws around consent have a standard national definition. “I won’t stop until I see the end of child sexual assault,” she says. “It’s as simple as that.”
For more, be sure to get a copy of the May issue of marie claire Australia, on stands April 15.