Greens Senator reveals sexual harassment

After only six months in federal parliament, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has spoken out about the sexual harassment she has experienced from two senators and two MPs.

Senator Thorpe, who was the first Indigenous woman in Victorian Parliament and first Indigenous Senator for Victoria, joined a chorus of female politicians across party lines who over the last month have exposed the toxic culture they’ve been subjected to within Canberra’s Parliament House.

In an interview shared with, Senator Thorpe detailed the unwanted, sexualised comments and physical advances she has endured, describing the behaviour as something she would expect in a “nightclub, not in my workplace”.

“Suggestive comments, as, you know, ‘What’ve you got in your mouth, what’re you eating?’, ‘I like what you’re wearing today’, ‘I like your hair, oh you’ve got your hair up today’,” she said, adding that the perpetrators are “always at it, just always at it”.

“There’s one particular senator who waits for me to talk in front of him. If he sees me coming out of my office, he’ll wait and walk behind me. My staff have witnessed this as well, what he’s looking at.”

In two separate incidents, Senator Thorpe said she’d had “two older men put their arm around me”, once when she was walking to the chamber for Question Time, and the other occasion when a House of Representatives member “put their arm around me during an inquiry”.

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“(It) made me feel really uncomfortable, and because I was in the inquiry, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say. I texted my staff member and said, ‘Oh my God, did he just put his hands on me?’ and my staff member just said, ‘I can’t believe what’s just happened’,” she said.

“It’s ongoing. It’s happened as late as today.”

Senator Thorpe said she’s tried to “avoid” the senator who put his arm around her when walking to Question Time, because he’s elevated to “unwanted comments” and “bad behaviour, and I don’t know what to do”.

“These people – they don’t care, they don’t care what is being said in the media. It’s not affecting how they think or affecting their behaviour,” she said.

“This particular person is also a bully, so there is a bit of a fear factor there as well. And he just couldn’t care less. Nothing is changing these behaviours, because there’s no repercussions for them – they can do whatever they like here. There’s no code of conduct here for politicians.”

In another case, Senator Thorpe said an MP, standing outside her office, looked her up and down and said he’d like to take her out to a private dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant – then called her office every second day to ask why she hadn’t responded to her invitation.

“I’ve got to work with these people, I’m a friendly person,” she said.

“And they somehow think that gives them permission to violate and sexualise me and other women in this place.”

After not even 12 months in Canberra, the encounters have left Senator Thorpe, who faces a “double whammy” of being a woman of colour, feeling not just disappointed, but fearful.

Initially, she told staff she could call it out “if it gets any worse”, because she wanted “these other women to have their agency and not have a politician come out and take that away”.

“I just haven’t wanted to say anything. And I suppose I was put on the spot this morning by the media after that sitting from Labor and Greens staffers about the violence, and I was compelled to actually say what’s been happening to me personally,” Senator Thorpe, who is considering making a formal complaint, said.

“I felt like I was silenced too, by the behaviours, and maybe that’s just the culture of the place. I mean – look what’s going on here, but look also (at) what’s going on around the country. It’s becoming normalised, and no one wants to take action.”

Asked if she thinks the perpetrators of the behaviour would be concerned by her speaking out, Senator Thorpe said no – because ultimately, they face no consequences for their actions.

“I think they’re so brazen. And these people believe they have so much power that they’re above the law and they can do whatever they like, and they’ll get a slap on the wrist,” she said.

“What do you get for being guilty of sexual harassment, or sexual assault or even rape in this place? What do you get? You get nothing. There’s no action.

“And usually, the whole focus turns back on the woman, and these fellas are getting off scot-free, with no repercussions at all. So why would they feel any threat?”

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Having frequently copped a barrage of abuse on social media, Senator Thorpe said the possibility of more backlash only made her “more determined to continue the fight for justice, and continue the fight for women’s rights in this country”.

“The march that we had here last week was just incredibly powerful, and I was on the grass right in front of Brittany Higgins when she was speaking, and I felt through my heart the pain and that made me want to fight harder,” she said.

“Enough’s enough. We’ve got to stop talking about the problem and we’ve got to actually deal with the problem – men’s behaviour. Men are the problem here and they need to be held to account. There needs to be consequences for men behaving badly in this place.”

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Senator Thorpe speaking out followed Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes revealing on Sky News that she was groped by a fellow politician (from a different party) when she worked in Parliament as a staffer.

“There was a former MP here who I know is not here anymore, who used to get particularly handsy if you saw them out,” Senator Hughes said.

“They’d just get ridiculously handsy. I have personally experienced it.”

Asked how she dealt with the situation at the time, Sen Hughes said she suggested to the colleague “it was home time for them, and (I) walked away”.

In an emotional press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was shocked and disgusted by a month of revelations over alleged rapes, sexual assault and “disgusting behaviour” by men at Parliament House.

“We must get our House in order,” the PM said.

“Women have been putting up with this crap all their lives.”

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