Grace Tame and Scott Morrison’s frosty meeting sparks praise and condemnation

·3 min read

Images quickly went viral of an unsmiling, outgoing Australian of the Year with the PM outside the Lodge


Pictures capturing an apparently frosty moment as outgoing Australian of the Year Grace Tame met the prime minister, Scott Morrison, at the Lodge have gone viral on social media, sparking a flurry of tweets, and condemnation from some Liberal senators.

The meeting took place on Tuesday morning as the 27-year-old advocate against sexual assault arrived at the 2022 Australian of the Year finalists morning tea in Canberra.

In the pictures, Morrison and his wife, Jenny, are seen grinning broadly for media outside the Lodge while Tame and her fiancé, Max Heerey, appear stony-faced.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, wife Jenny and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame and partner Max Heerey.
Prime minister Scott Morrison, wife Jenny, 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame and partner Max Heerey. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Tame became Australian of the Year after her advocacy was instrumental in overturning a Tasmanian law preventing survivors from speaking publicly about their assault.

After delivering an impassioned acceptance speech, she sparked a national conversation on the treatment of women and sexual assault in Australia.

Related: Grace Tame calls Morrison government’s pick as human rights commissioner a ‘grave mistake’

Tame later told the Betoota Advocate podcast that in the minutes after delivering her speech, Morrison leaned over to her and whispered “gee, I bet it felt good to get that out”.

The revelation forced Morrison to defend himself, telling parliament he did not mean it to sound patronising.

“That was a very brave statement, that is exactly what I meant when I said that to her on that occasion,” he said.

Tame has also used her platform to criticise the government’s handling of rape allegations within Parliament House made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and which are now the subject of criminal proceedings.

In an address to the national press club in March, Tame was asked what she thought of the prime minister’s handling of the issue after Morrison said he spoke to his wife Jenny, who helped him understand the seriousness of the rape allegation.

Scott Morrison and Grace Tame during a morning tea for state and territory recipients in the 2022 Australian of the Year awards.
Morrison and Tame during a morning tea for state and territory recipients in the 2022 Australian of the Year awards. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Scott Morrison and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame at the Lodge in Canberra.
Scott Morrison and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame at the Lodge in Canberra. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

“Jenny and I spoke last night and she said to me, ‘You have to think about this as a father. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?’” Morrison had said.

“Jenny has a way of clarifying things. Always has. And so, I’ve reflected on that overnight and listened to Brittany and what she had to say.”

Tame said it shouldn’t take anyone to have children to have a conscience. “And actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience,” she said at the time.

The images of Tuesday’s meeting quickly went viral.

Several Liberal politicians denounced the outgoing Australian of the Year, with senator Hollie Hughes labelling her “immature” and senator James McGrath calling her behaviour “childish”.

“The important issues raised by last year’s Australian of the Year must continue to be addressed by all of us,” he wrote on Facebook.

“It is a pity her behaviour and attacks on our prime minister are so partisan, political and childish. If she didn’t like being Australian of the Year she should hand back the honour.”

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