ABBY Earl has been acting since she was 16 years old, earning roles in theatre, film and television — with horrifying tales of sexual harassment and bullying over her entire career.
But it was while setting up for a kissing scene with an older male co-star the 28-year-old actor describes as “the day that really killed my hope.”
“The man in the scene was very experienced and I have so much respect for him … he’s wonderful to
Earl said “it was all meant to be a joke [but] this was all in front of everyone. All the cast and crew. I walked out and was very anxious but had to walk back in and do the scene.”
NOW there is somewhere to go, somewhere to turn, someone who will listen. I’m thrilled to be releasing my song ‘My Voice’ in time for the launch of NOW Australia. I’m very passionate about safety for all Australians in the workplace. Most of us have had a bad experience somewhere along the line. But, when you are ready to stand up and speak, NOW there is somewhere to go and someone who will listen. —Melinda Schneider
Melinda Schneider was in the middle of a songwriting session 18 years ago when the hitmaker she was working with pushed her up against a wall.
It had taken months for the aspiring young Australian artist to get in the room with the hugely successful songwriter in Nashville, the world’s capital of country music.
Now that man was pinning her with his full body weight, telling her in detail what he was going to do to her.
“In that second, I was able to say ‘Sit back down! You are not moving off that seat until we finish this song and if you say anything like that to me again I’m going out and telling everyone what you just did to me,” Schneider told NewsCorp.
Somehow, she finished the song with the man who had sexually harassed and abused her, telling no one for fear it would stall her career.
“I didn’t want to be known as the young Aussie artist who had an inappropriate thing happen. I didn’t want to be tarred with that brush,” she said.
“It’s hard enough getting songwriting sessions with major writers, the last thing you want to do is get a name, people thinking you may have led them on or something like that. So I can relate to keeping it quiet because of the boys club.”
Waiting for laws to change, laws that will protect us from sexual harassment is too slow, and too heartbreaking. It will happen, but it will be too late for too many of us. We demand you to change your behaviour, now. The era where people could get away with sexual harassment and not be held account is now over. You now know better, so we demand you do better. —Clare Bowditch
Now both women and others are lending their voices to launch NOW Australia, inspired by the #metoo and Time’s Up movements.
Spearheaded by journalist Tracey Spicer, NOW seeks to assist people from all industries who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or intimidated in their workplace.
The interesting thing about this is that sexual harassment is the front window. It’s about more than that, as well. It opens up a conversation about how do we dismantle discrimination, period? — Faustina Agolley
Singers including Tina Arena, Sarah Blasko, Missy Higgins and Jenny Morris, as well as actors including Deb Mailman, Helen Dallimore, Danielle Cormack and Sacha Horler, have signed on with more than 30 ambassadors using their profile and some sharing their own experiences of bravery and survival.
It’s not just Time’s Up, it’s time. When something is right and ripe, it is unstoppable and it’s clearly the right time. This is about giving people a voice and now someone will listen. — Danielle Cormack
The campaign has initiated a month of crowd-funding, to assist survivors of workplace sexual harassment and indecent assault with counselling and legal support.
The organisation will also fund research and education programs, working with government, business, statutory authorities and the community, legal and health sectors to develop workable and positive solutions.
“NOW is more than a call for change,” Spicer said.
“It’s the place people can have that crucial first conversation about what they’re going through. By connecting them to the support and advice they need, we’re also providing the strategies to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace for the next generation.”
I am very optimistic about change happening here in Australia and I hope that it’s opened up a conversation that we can continue to have about gender inequality. What I think would be a shame is if it all blew over as some kind of media storm. That’s one of the great things about the NOW movement which is it’s about actioning tangible change.” — Helen Dallimore
Schneider has recorded a new song, My Voice, to serve as an anthem for the cause, while others including Mahalia Barnes, close friend, Prinnie Stevens, as well as actor and musician Zindzi Okenyo, see themselves as allies, determined to help reverse what they claim is ingrained behaviour, accepted as “just the way it is.”
I feel so strong on the ally side of this because there have been so many people I love or care about or want to protect who have been through that stuff. It’s really full on and I want to help them. — Zindzi Okenyo
All three women said standing up for themselves when faced with inappropriate behaviour or refusing to play “power games” had cost them
“I’m OK with telling people to back off or pull their head in if they are out of line,” Barnes said. “I feel very fortunate to have not felt overpowered or helpless in that way but I am aware so many people have.
“What I would hope to see and am starting to see with the #metoo movement around the world is the onlookers taking responsibility.
“If you see somebody who needs help, ask them if they need help, if you can do anything. If you see people who are your mates, who you know are good people but they are being out of line, pull them up. They might be good people but they can still have inappropriate behaviour.”
I know far too many women who have been exposed to sexual abuse and assault as well as untoward misogynistic behavior and differential treatment just because they are women. Given the current spotlight being put around the world on the issues of sexual ssault and harassment, it is a responsibility for us to use our voices to try to do something about it. — Mahalia Barnes
Earl, currently filming the final season of Foxtel’s A Place To Call Home, has not had to work with the same director since the incident and said the TV industry had already embraced a new code of conduct.
“I don’t feel like networks have been backed into a corner … I feel like they’re trying to get on the front foot and do the right thing,” she said.
I think right now, sexual harassment is so shocking to people. When people step out and make their statements, they are being attacked and ridiculed. I want those moments to be normal, to give these women a voice and not be attacked. Unforunately it is going to take a long time for these people in power to realise what they did was wrong. I think that’s the hardest part. — Prinnie Stevens
“What’s really important with this movement is we take this action and we’re positive; move forward and not cynical, thinking it’s just lip service. We’re trying to make change and that way this movement won’t just be a hashtag.”
Looking out for women who are hurting, who are less powerful and have less visibility is vital to shift this culture. The wellbeing of women from lower economic backgrounds impacts on all of us. We need to change the power imbalance at the root, from the ground floor up. — Candy Bowers
Facebook: NOW Australia
Our weapon and armour is our voice. — Nikki Gemmell