The woman at the centre of one of the military's most damning sex scandals has been named Daily Life's Woman of the Year.
I was in the Air Force cadets for four years during high school and it was during that time that I became really interested in the career and lifestyle that [the military] offered. The chain of command that I had there was fantastic. There were some really strong women that I had as officers. They really inspired me to take that path.
The female officers in cadets were always really happy and respected and I just took it from them that it was a good career choice. I wasn’t aware of any sexism.
At the time [speaking publicly about the incident] was just about saying 'this has happened to me and it’s not ok'. It was about the fact that nothing was being done about it. I wasn’t aware that there were other issues in the defence force. It wasn’t until three or four days later when other people started coming forward with their stories that I went 'hang on a second, this is a lot bigger than just me, this isn’t about me anymore.'
There’s still other people out there who are suffering silently and it’s not fair. My story is about creating cultural change within defence to make it a safe, respectable career for other women. And it should be. Women should feel confident in their role in the defence force and I don’t believe at the moment they do. I’m doing this for them. I’m doing it for any female who’s ever lost their career because of sexual assault within the defence force.
In the beginning and for a long time, I didn’t feel I had support within defence. When all you see is negativity and hostility towards you, it’s hard to think you have support from others. That’s why in the beginning it was really nice when I was getting emails and letters of support saying ‘you’re not alone.’ It was a really nice surprise to find that people were behind you and were wanting you to succeed and keep going. It gives you strength. I hope I give other women the courage to talk about their experiences.
It’s a really nice surprise to be recognised [as Daily Life’s Woman of the Year]. It’s a good feeling to know that people recognise the personal cost that it has had on me. The past three years have been a really massive emotional rollercoaster but it’s nice that what I have done has brought about change and that I will leave a legacy. That’s a really good feeling.
I’ve definitely taken my strength from my mum and grandmother. My grandmother has great compassion for other people. My mother has always stood up for other people and I think I’ve got my ability and my confidence to stand up from her.
I think the public image of defence has really taken a massive hit and it’s not just my story. In the past three years, every time the military is in the news, it’s because of another indiscretion. Until the culture within defence has changed, I don’t think that the defence is going to have the support of the public.
It’s very hard to support an organisation when every story they’re hearing or seeing is something negative, somebody being treated badly.
[Pushing the compensation case forward] is really is about necessity. It’s not about whether I have the emotional capacity or the energy to do it. I’ve lost my career, my education, my livelihood and I’m starting from ground zero again and I need resources to be able to do that. I’ve lost my income, my education, I’ve lost all of that and it’s about getting the compensation and resources to start my life again. Rebuilding from scratch is a really scary, hard thing to do.
It’s not just about me anymore, it’s about cultural change within defence. It’s about keeping the issues in the public arena so that defence don’t just think that it’ll just go away. It’s not going away.