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Tame leads push for consistent abuse laws

Grace Tame doesn’t think justice should look different for sexual abuse survivors depending on the state they live in.

The Australian of the Year will meet with the country’s attorneys-general in a campaign to make child sexual abuse offences, the age of consent and definition of sexual intercourse uniform across states and territories.

Ms Tame says the wording matters because the differently named offences carry different penalties and perpetrators take advantage of the inconsistencies.

“Why should justice look different in different places for children whose experiences can’t be compared?” she told AAP ahead of Friday’s meeting.

“There’s no logical argument why there should be inconsistencies and why justice should look different.”

Her own abuser was charged by Tasmanian authorities with maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 17.

Ms Tame’s advocacy was pivotal in Tasmania renaming the offence the persistent sexual abuse of a child.

Now, she is calling on Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and ACT to follow suit.

“It’s just disgusting and wrong to use the word relationship, as a start, to describe abuse,” she said.

“And the word ‘maintaining’ sort of has implications that the criminality is in the continuation of something that a perpetrator didn’t necessarily instigate.

“It misses the reality that grooming often underpins these crimes and that the initiation is on the part of the abusing criminal.”

Ms Tame will also ask the country’s attorneys-general to agree on and adopt a uniform definition of sexual intercourse and a singular age of consent.

She wants to see a consistent set of provisions for what’s known as the “similar age defence” as well as the defence of reasonable belief regarding consent and approaches to punishment.

“At the moment, across the jurisdictions, there are different punishments that are incurred by perpetrators depending on the age that the child victim is at the time,” Ms Tame said.

Dubbed the Harmony Campaign, its long-term goal is to ensure broad consistency across Australia’s various sexual assault laws including legislation around grooming.

“When you multiply eight jurisdictions by however many different pieces of legislation there are within that area … the whole thing is a bit of a mess,” Ms Tame said.

“Amid this national reckoning, there’s a chance for the states and territories not just to take leadership as individual leaders, but as a united force.”

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