Australian of the Year Grace Tame has broken down in tears while delivering a moving graduation speech at the school where she was sexually abused.
Grace was targeted by a teacher while studying at Hobart’s St Michael’s Collegiate School when she was 15.
Footage has emerged of Ms Tame, now 26, addressing a crowd of students at the school some 11 years later.
2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame, revisited Hobart’s St Michael’s Collegiate School to give a speech to students about child sex abuse and grooming (pictured)
Ms Tame admitted she was uneasy about returning to the scene of the crime, where Nicolaas Bester, 58, preyed upon her.
‘We all know why I’m uneasy,’ she said.
‘I can still remember him playing the piano and I can still feel his eyes watching me as he did.’
At 15, Grace (pictured) was sexually abused by one of her teachers at Hobart’s St Michael’s Collegiate School
But she warmly remembered how another teacher supported her – and choked up telling the crowd why she never had the chance to graduate from the school.
Over the span of six months in 2010, Bester slowly broke down Grace’s support network and left her feeling that she had to work to keep him close to her.
She believes there were a number of reasons why Bester targeted her, including that she had already been sexually assaulted when she was six.
Eleven years later, Grace (pictured) is using her experience and courage to speak out and educate others about child abuse and grooming
In her speech Grace recalls the moment a teacher confirmed she’d made the right decision by speaking up.
‘I will never forget Ms Harper going out of her way to tell me she thought I was brave,’ she said.
‘Not only reaffirming my decision to speak out but also reaffirming much of the work I’ve done since and still do today.’
Grace (pictured) believes one of the reasons her abuser targeted her was because she had confided in him she had previously been sexually abused at six years old
Eleven years later, Grace returned to St Michael’s Collegiate school in Hobart as 2021’s Australian of the Year to give a speech about her experience.
Throughout her speech, Grace discussed how her abuser was able to manipulate her and the steps she took to expose that abuse.
She also discussed how judgement from her peers and restrictions on which staff members she was allowed to talk to after exposing her abuser made her feel alone.
Grace (pictured)is described as being brutally honest and uses her platform to speak out against injustice
‘I felt alienated,’ she said.
In 2016, Grace’s abuser Bester was convicted of child sex offences.
However, despite the investigation’s completion and Grace being an adult, she wasn’t allowed to speak publicly about her abuse due to an ‘archaic’ Tasmanian law.
For her work, Grace Tame (pictured) was awarded Tasmanian Australian of the Year and Australian of the Year for 2021
The law doesn’t allow victims of child sex abuse to be identified, even if they are wanting to identify themselves.
Bester had no such restrictions and even boasted about his crimes of Facebook while Grace was forced to remain silent.
Inspired by the injustice Grace suffered, in 2018 Nina Funnell launched the Let Her Speak campaign.
Support for the campaign led to Grace being given an exemption by the Tasmanian Supreme Court so that she could speak publicly about her abuse in 2019 and eventually overturned the law.
Through the Let Her Speak campaign Grace (pictured) was able to receive an exemption from an ‘archaic’ Tasmanian law that prevents victims of child sexual abuse from identifying themselves, even once investigations are closed and the victims are adults
Since then Grace has made every effort possible to educate others on grooming and share her experience with the hope of helping victims and preventing future crimes.
Earlier this year, Grace was awarded Tasmanian Australian of the Year and Australian of the Year for her work.
With a bigger platform than ever, Grace has experienced backlash for her honesty and willingness to speak out against injustice.
Grace (pictured) worked with the Let Her Speak campaign to overturn an ‘archaic’ Tasmanian law so that victims of child sexual abuse have the opportunity to talk publicly about their experiences
Grace has received a lot of criticism over her advocacy in relation to sexual misconduct claims made against parliament house earlier this year.
However, journalist Karen Middleton said Grace’s outspokenness is exactly why she received her award in the first place.
‘It was her pushing back against keeping quiet that saw her awarded this honour in the first place,’ she told ABC News.
‘I think people who are asking her to be quiet need to remember that actually is part of what we are honouring.’