Grace Tame fires back at critics after copping backlash over tense meeting with Scott Morrison

Ashleigh Gleeson and Samantha MaidenNCA NewsWire
Prime Minister Scott Morrison shakes Grace Tame’s hand. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Camera IconPrime Minister Scott Morrison shakes Grace Tame’s hand. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Outgoing Australian of the Year Grace Tame has returned fire at her critics over her tense meeting with the Prime Minister joking she was “surprised they let her in.”

Ms Tame made the comments on Instagram on Tuesday after her icy meeting sparked national media coverage and backlash from conservative MPs who called her “childish” and immature.

The Australian of the Year hinted she was making a political point with her body language, posting an image from the satire website The Betoota Advocate that stated “woman faces backlash for not pretending everything is OK.”

She also uploaded a short video of her standing outside the Lodge in Canberra and saying that she was “surprised they let me in.”

AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS AT LODGE
Camera IconPrime Minister Scott Morrison shakes Grace Tame’s hand. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms Tame attended the Australian of the Year awards ceremony on Tuesday night.

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Reflecting on her extraordinary year in the position, Ms Tame said she was “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

She spoke of continuing her campaign to end sexual abuse against children and others through education and legal reform.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the people of Australia who have been continuing this conversation for a such a long time and for embracing the message last year,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you. It’s a team effort.”

Earlier, extraordinary photos captured the tense moment Ms Tame met with the Prime Minister before a morning tea for this year’s Australian of the Year finalists.

The 27-year-old was seen looking unimpressed as Mr Morrison and his wife Jenny stood for photos with other people as she waited to enter the event

“Hello Grace,” the Prime Minister was then heard saying.

“G’day,” she responded.

“How are you going? Congratulations on the engagement,” Mr Morrison continued.

“Thank you,” Ms Tame said, not making eye contact with the Prime Minister.

She then smiled at Jenny who said something that couldn’t be heard.

Ms Tame then appeared visibly unimpressed while standing for photos next to the Prime Minister.

She didn’t say anything once the photos were taken before walking off.

Ms Tame had earlier tweeted an image about her two days in Canberra: “On second thoughts let’s not go to Canberra. It’s a silly place,” it said.

Queensland Liberal Senator James McGrath criticised Ms Tame for her “childish” behaviour, suggesting she should hand back her award.

In an extraordinary attack after images emerged of the tense meeting, Senator McGrath said he was sick of her “partisan” attacks.

After months of public criticism of the Prime Minister by Ms Tame, Senator McGrath said if she didn’t like the job she should “hand back the honour.”

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

“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.”

Senator McGrath is no stranger to public controversy himself.

He was sacked by Boris Johnson in 2008 for suggesting that African-Caribbean people should emigrate if they were unhappy living in Tory-controlled London.

Senator McGrath was recorded on tape saying, “Well, let them go if they don’t like it here.”

Mr Johnson, who was London mayor at the time, said his aide was “not racist” but had made an error of judgment.

Senator McGrath’s Facebook post prompted dozens of online attacks on Ms Tame as “surly”, “childish”, “disgusting” and lacking “manners.”

AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS AT LODGE
Camera IconGrace Tame looks unimpressed standing next to the Prime Minister. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Channel 10’s The Project host Peter Van Onselen slammed the footage of Ms Tame meeting the Prime Minister at his residence as “embarrassing, for her that is”.

“She was ungracious, rude and childish, refusing to smile for the cameras, barely acknowledging his existence when standing next to him. The footage tells the story free of overstatement,’’ he wrote in The Australian.

“She didn’t have to play the role of court jester, or be a fake. Just be a decent human being, that’s all. If that wasn’t possible, why bother to attend at all? At his Canberra house no less. It isn’t like the person who lives there wasn’t going to be there.

“If your disdain for the man is so great (understandable perhaps) that you can’t even muster basic and common courtesy, then just don’t go. That would be reasonable. Plenty of people would understand. It would cause a stir, but justifiably so given her criticisms of the PM. But acting like a child displaying a lack of basic manners when coming face-to-face with him in a meet and greet was unbecoming and unnecessary.

“But to look as forlorn as she did in response, rudely and deliberately looking away from the photographer, was an act of juvenile dissent. That of itself sends a powerful message without being childishly rude and demeaning yourself.”

Government sources confirmed that the Prime Minister had invited Ms Tame to his family home because it was tradition and never contemplated changing that tradition as a result of the fractured relationship between the pair.

Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes joined the attacks tweeting “Immature!” in relation to the awkward photographs.

But just hours after her icy moment with the Prime Minister, Labor leader Anthony Albanese praised her huge role in sparking a national conversation.

“On her final day as Australian of the Year, I’d like to take a moment to thank Grace Tame for her extraordinary courage and fierce advocacy,’’ he said.

“You’ve inspired countless Australians and you’ve earned enormous respect.”

AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS AT LODGE
Camera IconThe Prime Minister reaches out his hand to Grace Tame’s fiance. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms Tame was named the 2021 Australian of the Year after overturning a Tasmanian law that prevented her from speaking about her experiences of sexual assault when she was just 15.

“I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15, anorexic; he was 58, he was my teacher,” she said in her powerful acceptance speech.

“For months he groomed me and then abused me almost every day. Before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor.

“I didn’t know who I was.

“Australia, we’ve come a long way but there’s still more work to do in a lot of areas.”

Ms Tame later told the Betoota Advocate podcast that she was perplexed by Mr Morrison’s words to her after the speech.

“Do you know what he said to me, right after I finished that speech and we’re in front of a wall of media?” Ms Tame said. “I sh*t you not, he leant over and right in my ear he goes, ‘Well, gee, I bet it felt good to get that out’.”

Mr Morrison later defended his words when coming under fire for them during Question Time.

“That is roughly my recollection,” he told parliament.

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

AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS AT LODGE
Camera IconAs Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the crowd Grace Tame did not look impressed. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Ms Tame also criticised Mr Morrison’s handling of the Brittany Higgins sexual assault allegations.

She was asked what she thought about the Prime Minister saying he spoke to his wife Jenny, which helped him understand the seriousness.

“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?’” Mr Morrison had said.

AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS AT LODGE
Camera IconGrace Tame appeared uncomfortable as the Prime Minister shook hands with her partner. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

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

Ms Tame said it shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience.

“And actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience,” she added.

Originally published as Grace Tame fires back at critics after copping backlash over tense meeting with Scott Morrison

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