In this week’s episode, Josh chats with Harrison James who was the Winner of the 2023 Spirit Super Connecting Communities Award at the 7News Young Achiever Awards for NSW & ACT.
*Content Warning*: This episode includes a discussion about child sexual abuse. Listener discretion is advised.
Harrison James is a survivor of child sexual abuse and is now an advocate for other survivors. He was the co-founder of the Your Reference Ain’t Relevant campaign that is petitioning to the NSW government to remove the provision of character references for perpetrators of child sexual abuse in the sentencing procedure. Harrison was also a key collaborator for Safe Sounds, Australia’s first sexual assault awareness music festival.
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Connect on Instagram: @itsharrijames
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Thank you very much, and I’m excited to welcome today’s guest. Someone that I met at the New South Wales
ACT gala presentation dinner for the 7News Young Achiever Awards in Sydney at the Fullerton hotel,
the winner of the Spirit Super connecting communities award. Twenty twenty three saints, Harrison James. And he’s
a child sexual abuse survivor and an advocate for survivors. Harrison is founder of
the Your Reference Ain’t Relevant campaign. Aiming to improve the provision of
good character references for perpetrators of child sexual abuse in the sentencing procedure. Now,
Harrison’s Petition for this will go to New South Wales parliamentary debate in
August. So by the time this episode is live, that will be
a Petition will be up and ready to go. So tell us all about the campaign about
Harrison’s important work and authority. Harrison welcome. How are you
Hey, hey, thank you for having me. I
really, really appreciate it Josh. Yeah, it’s awesome to have a chat.
It’s a pleasure mate. So Harrison yeah,
great to have you on now, can you tell us a little bit, you know,
obviously I mentioned the bio there. The that You’re Reference Ain’t Relevant. I
think that’s a really good place to start.
tell us, I mean I’ve got two questions here. Firstly, tell us
a bit more about it. And secondly, how do you get something like this to
a parliamentary debate because that is so interesting.
Yeah, of course. So I started the your reference that Relevant campaign with my friend
and fellow architect, Jared gruss in May of this year.
There was obviously a build up to that,
but we were planning and making sure all our lives were in order. But yeah,
we started, we met with greens MP Abigail Boyd who’s
a member of the legislative council here in New South Wales. So the upper house of parliament,
of the New South Wales state parliament. And we essentially met with her and just had
a chat about this sort of Strange quirk in the law that I recognised. Where convicted
paedophiles able to use good character references if they didn’t meet their chart,
that the victim in the sort of so that they’re an obvious person of
good standing in the community and they’ve met their child. They’ve met the victim
through that good standing. Then they’re not allowed to use them for any other sort
of convicted Pedophile. They are allowed to use them.
So in cases like mine where
my stepmother did what she did to me for many, many years,
she would be entitled to use her good character references with the current law.
And our position is that it is never appropriate for
a child sex offender to utilise. Good character provisions in sentencing in an effort to reduce the sentence.
Yeah, definitely. So I mean the terms good character and Pedophile by definition they
cancel each other out. They don’t really work. So that’s helpful argument and yeah, I sat down with
a few different lawyers to sort of come up with the legislation and and what we
needed to ask for in the Petition. And then yet we just ran that Petition through
with Abigail and it’s been open to signatures since May. And yeah,
since then we’ve just been working with different journalists and trying to get the
word out so we can get some say some action on it
or something. I think that’s one thing. I misunderstood so that the Petition is live now.
That’s right. Yeah. So it plays on both. Yeah, it closes on August first.
So you can, if you’re
a New South Wales resident, people can head to the parliament of New South Wales website on the legislative
council page. And yes, on that it takes less than a minute to sign. And yeah,
it’s a good thing and that will be debated in August. Yep.
That’s so yes, obviously to get that to a debate,
you have to have an MP’s kind of support. Is that right? That’s correct, you talking about?
Yeah, that’s Abigail Abigail was representing a Petition and then she’ll take it to parliamentary debate and some motion
and yeah, it’ll trigger a debate in late August. We think it’s going to go ahead. So yeah. Petition court,
August third, and then late August it will go head to the
Yeah. So you raise a good point there about, you know, the word good character or the term good character
Yeah. Pedophile and how obviously that clearly clashes. Yeah. You know, it’s obviously such
a good point.
Any parent out there, you know, that’s narrowing it,
anyone out there really listening to this can obviously have their own thoughts on
that and you know, people, it’s a strong such a strong topic for me. It’s,
it raises alarm bells that someone could get a good character reference. And then that, you know,
and I’m just imagining this scenario in my head that they can then, you know,
volunteer in a group that may have access to,
to young people and things like that. Is that kind of what good character
references are for? What are they? What do they
say? Yeah. So anyone who commits any sort of crime is, is able to use
a good character reference to prove the sort of good standing in the community. So
if I got a speeding ticket or something, I could use a good character reference. Yeah, I’m, I’m not
a lawyer so I don’t know the ins and outs and specifics of everything, but yeah that’s,
that’s what it’s utilized for. And but else sort of position as I was explaining
before is that the actual good character is part of the crime when it comes to child sexual abuse, perpetrators,
weaponize that good character to get in contact with the victims. That’s why
there’s this whole sort of good bloke mentality. People think Oh, he wouldn’t harm
a fly or whatever and he sucks to leave my child with. And yeah, so that’s,
it’s sort of a sort of They corrupt that, that they not only groom the victim,
they groom everyone around the victim into thinking they’re blessed to be around.
So yeah, good character is actually good. It’s a, it’s a part, it’s a part of the crime.
Yeah, that’s such an interesting way to think about it because it’s so true. People have
heard that before. But when you hear, you know, allegations and things,
even if it’s someone in this like a celebrity, people say, Oh, they wouldn’t do that. Yeah, obviously that’s such
a tough one. They’ve created this persona around themselves. And yeah,
so obviously it’s a very personal topic for you. Harrison. Did it take you
a long time to kind of, you know, get, did you have this thought
a long time ago and then come to it or what was it in your personal journey that
led you to take this kind of action?
Yeah, so I’ve been an advocate for about
a year now and before I was I wanted to do advocacy different. I’ve never been
political or into politics or anything like that. Just
It’s wasted on the youth, I guess. And then when I was doing my advocacy,
I was doing things like events and like I started alongside a charity called, what were you wearing?
We worked together to create australia’s first ever sexual assault awareness music
festival. And I did things like I ran a clothing brand, then I ran a brand that had these condoms,
and they had consensual warnings on the front of them and stuff like that.
wanted to get people comfortable with an uncomfortable situation topic to talk
about. I wanted them to have a sort of avenue to go through,
so it could spark these conversations and then with my advocacy, it just got to
a point where I think I wanted to be taken more seriously amongst amongst my peers
in the space. And that’s sort of, I had this idea about
a year ago. They’re good with the good character,
but I didn’t know where to start with it. And then me and my friend, Jared,
we just went out for a couple of beers one day. And we were saying, Oh, that’s such
a good thing to sort of sort of work on and
we should pursue it. And then I said, yeah, we should,
I just needed that sort of driving force to give me the kick to start it off. And
yeah, and so that was on the Saturday when we went for
a cup and then he called me on Monday and was like, Oh yeah,
I think we really got to work at that. And
I responded, well, what do you mean?
I’m already got meetings with three different lawyers this week and stuff. So yeah, it was,
it was funny. I just needed that sort of kickstart and Jared was able to provide
that to me and yeah, that was earlier. That was in about February this year. So. And also I got
a taste of, of what sort of politics and what government changes in government can
do when when I work with New South Wales police to bring forward their New sexual assault reporting options,
it’s an online version.
So people can report and take and be anonymous when they’re reporting.
So that was previously possible to be anonymous.
So, so there was a thing called, sorry, but it was a paper based document. So
a survivor who is reporting to police had to like download this file, print it off,
fill it out, scan it back in,
and email it off to the state. And I think after you’ve just had one of the worst
things imaginable happen to you,
that’s the last thing you’d ever want to do. So it became this online sort of
version and it’s in twelve different languages. And now yet people can report
that they can choose not to be contacted or to be contacted by police or they can
choose to only be contacted if several victims come forward for the same
perpetrator. So it was just an easier way for people to gain access and upload,
upload this stories to police, I guess. And yet when I, when we,
when I did the press conference with New South Wales police and the New South Wales
government and it came out officially like we did the reports. We got
a third of the amount of last year’s reports in two weeks. And I just saw the real
reporting went up seven hundred, thirty five hundred percent. And I just saw the impact that that change can have.
So that also really cemented that I wanted to get into policy making as well. And I
just sort of went, yeah, we’re at this point now.
Yep, that’s unbelievable. Those stats that you know,
you make something easier for someone and of course you’re going to see good
results. So that’s how horrible to think that the flip side of that is that people
obviously weren’t reporting enough because
now and thought and so unfortunate. Now I’ve got a, I’ve got two young kids, six and four,
and I know the innocence of them sometimes just makes you think about the world
differently. And they asked something about robbers or something like we talked
about how it came up and they’re saying, Oh, why did people do that? Like bad things
and dumped me silence for what? Chase yeah, no. And it’s shocking that this does happen. And you know,
these people, so I shouldn’t say shouldn’t I say put these things that sound easy and when you,
when you say it out loud and the reality of all the different policy that’s behind
it, the work has to go to change it. So I mean, yeah,
Super impressed with your work, Harrison. It said something.
And they said, so the thing with Sarah,
the police thing and the Europeans aren’t Relevant campaign. They’re only for New
South Wales at the moment. But I know that I’m keen to pursue them in other states and territories too,
because everyone deserves the same sort of rights and privileges when it comes to this sort of thing.
there’s so much more work that we can do. These are just two simple fixes,
but there’s a plethora of things that we can do to make this,
this whole process easier for victims and survivors because right now the odds are stacked against us. There’s no,
there’s no incentive for us to come forward because we know the system is set up
for us to fail. So we don’t bother participating. So yeah, we’ve got to do
a lot more. But these sort of examples are a great starting point. Especially for
a wider conversation amongst people as well.
The other comment I had just going
back a little bit, you were saying that you caught up with your mate and you know,
and then that was kind of a spark.
It’s just another reason why you’re
a young achiever and inspiration Australian Harrison, because I think most people, when they catch up with they have
a good idea whether it’s frivolous or important. Usually you leave and have
a good time. And the idea kind of ends there and you might bring it up
a year later. Or you remember that that thing we talked about. And just,
Yeah. So so cool that not only did you just go out and start booking,
conversation with lawyers and your friend actually followed up on the Monday as well. So yeah, that’s yeah, really,
really cool. And obviously it shows that you really are driven to make these changes.
Yeah, thanks Josh,
and I think for my friends is survivor as well. And I think the one thing that I mean
a consistent theme amongst survivors is that they want to incite change because they
don’t want it to happen to any other person. We know what it’s like to sort of Be
in what I can only describe as one of the lowest of lows that any
possible person can be driven to,
I guess. And yet we just don’t want anyone else to feel like that. So I think survivors,
some of the most intellectual people I’ve ever met and the driven so driven and,
and they want to see change and, and yeah, there are forces to be reckoned with. So that’s,
I’m inspired by the community that I’m part of. So yeah,
you mentioned the australia’s first sexual assault awareness music festival. Can you tell us a bit about that?
You know how it came about and then what the actual festival was like?
Yeah, yeah, of course. So I have a friend named Sarah Williams who runs what were you wearing? Yep. It’s
a founder dedicated to ending sexual violence and she was the winner of the another
category. This in this year’s young chamber awards. But yeah, this was last year. Yeah.
Last year and yeah,
I was receiving an award in Newcastle and She was
giving it to me and I said, Oh I have this great idea to do
a music festival. I think it’d be really sort of
a great thing to bring people together. And she replied, Oh my God,
you’d have no idea what we’re announcing tonight.
It’s how music festival would you
like to be a part of it. And I said,
of course I would love to help out and yeah,
so I did all the merchandise for it because I was running my clothing brand at the
time and a host of one of the, one of the three stages which I love doing as well. And
yes, I mean you were kind of like up and up on the stage and
Yeah, yeah, in front of
people said yeah,
but between acts and introducing acts and stuff like that. Yeah. It was fun. After
I’d go in the audience and meet with people and have conversations and stuff if
they weren’t enjoying the music, of course. But it was
a great time we had over. So the first one
is good numbers. I think we had like, over
a thousand people come through throughout the whole day and it was an enclosed venue.
But of these three, three massive rooms and three stages and yeah,
it was a great day. And it just, I think it was created,
it was created to combat sort of drinks spiking and unsafe practices in venues. And yeah,
so I think we wanted to show an alternative so that we people can make this work
and the big organisations can actually implement legitimate practices. We can do it,
they can definitely do it. So we want to show them that this can be done,
and yet that’s all Sarah’s work in. And what were you wearing the,
what were you wearing to work and I was just, I was just
a part of it. And I’m grateful to have been a part of it.
Yeah, for sure. So Sarah, as you said, she won what you were wearing, what were you wearing one,
the Freemasons of New South Wales and state community service award. And that was,
that would have been amazing to have you both being there, you know,
as winners and up on the same stage at one point together at the end of the night.
I’ll be a bit of a surreal moment. I’m guessing.
Yeah, it’s a great feeling. Yeah, we were just talking about it after and. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it was
a very surreal moment for sure to see that we’ve gone through very similar journeys
and to, to sort of Be on that stage together. Was a great feeling.
I think it also tells
a little bit about what people are now starting to value. And you said it yourself
earlier making these. Yeah. Not so comfortable conversations. More common and
making it more comfortable for people. That now as part of awards Programs that
aren’t focused on this area that they’re focused on all different fields. And now
we’re actually trying to celebrate and put in the spotlight. These kinds of
conversations that maybe aren’t so comfortable for people and showcasing different
types of things that sparked these conversations. And yeah, you know,
it’s great to have you and obviously Sarah as well amongst others leading that, that charge.
So that sounds like such a cool festival and you know their plans to to do it again.
I think there’s a yeah at there’s another one coming soon, but I think I’m not,
I’m not too in on it yet. I think I
think they’ve asked me to come back and do it again,
but I’d be more than happy to but I’ve been so busy with the campaign. I’m running
at the moment. I just, I don’t want to spread myself to want to.
If I’m going to do something,
I want to make sure I’m going to be there to give it my all
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isn’t a reliable indicator of future performance. So I think with that you know,
advocacy work and policy. And then you know, you’ve also got
a like an income and those kind of things. How you juggling all of these things and
where do you find the time for it?
Yeah, so I work, I work part time at
a bar which I love doing. And then I dedicate all my other time to sort of the
advocacy and the policy making. And yeah, it’s, it’s,
you have to find time to meet with friends and, you know,
with family as well. And you always have to make time for that. You need to set
time aside for yourself as well, which is really important. You know,
sometimes you just need to recharge separately. So it’s is all, I think it’s
a difficult Balancing act for not just me, but for everyone. I think everyone has difficulties. Balancing the schedules and
yeah, but also I just have this drive that I and not to sound egotistical,
but I haven’t seen it in anyone else. I think I’m sort of different in that sense.
I just yeah, I wake up each morning. It’s the first thing I think about,
and I go to bed thinking of what I’m going to
do for the next day for it. So yeah,
it’s sort of taking up a lot of my time at the moment,
but it’s only been since May and that we’ve gone full force with it and it’ll wrap
up soon when we win. And yeah, so I just have to
Yeah, I’m just so motivated. In getting it done and yeah,
but I do still take time out for myself and the
hours and how much of it is kind of a solo effort of you know,
you said that you’re driven and I think that’s not egotistical at all. I think it’s
fantastic to embrace our strengths and our skills and you know,
the assets that we have to believe in ourselves if we want to achieve great results. So that is,
I really want to applaud that as well. But how
much of it is solo versus, you know, bringing other people in. And I only mentioned that about, you know,
how you said you were driven because I guess it’s a true poll question. I’m making this
a long question. If you are teaming up with people,
do you find it difficult to work with others who may not share that drive that you have?
So it’s like it’s like spinning plates. So I think you have to,
when I went to And also it’s very much for taking, you know, this,
this work is the make up of lots and lots of
people. It’s not just me. But I think
I just calibrate the teams and put them in place so we can all go towards a,
you know, United sort of end point, which I think is what
a leader does. And I think that’s a really important attribute to have. But yet,
like when it comes to sort of spinning these plates,
there’s the survivors that want to share their stories for the campaign. There’s the journalists, there’s the politicians,
there’s the lawyers. So there’s all different groups that have to interact to try
to put it into this one big pot. So you can make this happen. It’s
a sort of difficult thing to sort of get your head around. But I think if you have
a great support system,
which I do with lots of my friends that are part of the survivor community as well.
And they put me in contact with certain individuals and stuff like that,
which I’m very, very grateful for.
Yeah, that helps a million a million times over,
but I also think that people are often scared to ask the question,
like do you know this person or or that scared to to send that email to that. So
that person that think that they think that that or that that No can get them to
the next point. So my advice to cope with that would just be Yeah, that self-belief,
that self determination and that sort of manifesting of I know that I’ll get this done and yeah,
just driving through. That’s sort of my advice with that. I guess.
awesome. You get to mind, I was going to
ask you if you have any tips for people, you know,
wanting to get into advocacy and policymaking and this kind of work that you’re
doing and you kind of beat me to the punch there. So in terms of journalists, you mention them. Yeah,
I can be quite difficult. Sometimes people just need to get their story or that
campaign out there. Have you found any, you know,
useful ways or kind of have you got any other tips I guess with people wanting to
engage in that way?
Yeah, of course. I think the thing with journalism and getting your story out there is
that it’s such there’s so many stories out there. So you really have to
differentiate yourself and sort of it’s weird because you have to pitch it,
but I don’t want to say pitch it because I just think it’s such
a with what I’m doing. It’s such
a valid story to be put out there. And it could really change the conversation and
how people approach preventing child sexual abuse. It’s such a,
I think with the statistics that we see of how prevalent child sexual abuse is,
which is one in three girls and one in five boys. I think it’s a necessity that,
that information is out. So yeah, it’s all and how you pitch it to two journalists. And difficult thing
with journalism as well. Is that, and this is, and I’m not knocking it,
but it specifically for survivors. You have to be careful that it’s not just being
sensationalized for sort of their own needs.
And so for that,
you really need to be upfront and clear with your intentions and what your
boundaries are with it and stuff like that. It’s really,
really important. And that’s a whole nother conversation, but in terms of tips,
I would say that some of the best advice I’ve received so far is really being stern
and clear with your boundaries and how you want to approach this. And also what you
expect to come of it as well so that the people that are uploading these stories or
working with you on these stories can,
can put the appropriate measures in place to sort of try their best to meet those
expectations. So yeah, yeah, it’s about developing, it’s all about relationships and strengthening relationships and keeping them alive and yeah,
that’s what it’s all about. So that would be my sort of advice. Think of it as
a like you’re trying to build a business almost. Yeah.
And don’t be afraid to send that email,
we’ll Bring that phone number or whatever, you know. Yeah, it’ll all work itself out of you believe it will.
Yeah. I remember someone telling me once they were having a, you know, on a similar vein, they’re like, Oh,
just feeling a bit anxious to make that call or whatever
. Yeah, I said, Oh, well, the worst that can happen is they don’t pick up. But they actually had
a good point. They said, no, I’m actually more worried if they do pick up
And they didn’t want to have the,
you know, that conversation or face any tough questions or any of that. And I had to laugh
because it’s funny. Everyone is so different,
I think of it in different ways but but you’re right
. You just got to give it a go, don’t you?
Yes. Well I think um, I think what’s it a wasted opportunity causes more pain for us than the rejection?
So yeah it’s, it’s really important just to give it a crack because you’ll be kicking yourself later.
Yep. So true. Now you mentioned before as well. Of, you know, the great support iPad and that it’s definitely
a team effort. And going back to the awards night just quickly,
I could definitely say that that was the case because not only were you Super
supported at the awards night event when you won the Spirit Super connecting
communities award, but then afterwards as well.
And so, so many people were really backing you and supporting your efforts,
which was great to see, you know, I guess,
going back to that moment when you were announced as the winner,
what was it that was going through your head when that happened, when they announced Harrison James,
there was lots of different emotions. Um
It was great excitement and a real thrill. And there was
a great sense of like I felt humble and really appreciated and
that was lovely. But I was also sort of conflicted because at the time one of the
which I mentioned in my speech as well, was the, the uh,
the Bruce lemon video interview that was going on channel seven. And I sort of
thought it was appropriate to mention that and that got
a lot of attention as well after the fact so, but yeah,
it was great to see from the awards night themselves like the young achiever
awards. They said we fully support what Harrison said and stuff like that,
which I was really appreciative of. And yeah, I just thought for, if I’m an advocate for survivors,
I have to use those opportunities to call certain things out. Yeah,
it was really important to me and I appreciated that I was supported by the like
the organization as well. So
was it a tough, tough choice for you to do it? Or was it something that you know,
you kind of knew you were going to do or did it just come to you in the moment
it’s sort of just kind of, I knew I was
going to, I thought about doing it and I,
I just knew it was the right thing to do.
Yeah. And I thought if I didn’t do it,
I would be I would be there for my own interests and not the interests of my
community who I advocate for. And yeah, the,
the best interest to me is making sure that survivors are given a voice,
and they’re shown the temples that you know,
in the face of very real fear. If you speak up it and it, it’s
a good thing to do. It’s not a bad thing to speak up and to Yeah that that’s,
that was my thinking at the time. I thought it would inspire the people that,
that feel like they’re voiceless. It felt like it would give them a voice. So
yeah, I think because you did it with such integrity as well that it was even more
powerful in my opinion.
Yeah. I don’t think I didn’t go up there to offend anyone.
I didn’t go up there to really repent or anything like that. It was just
a point that I felt needed to be made and I wanted to remain respectful and I think,
I think I did, and yeah,
I didn’t go there with the intent to cause any drama or anything like that. I went
out there with the best interests of the people that are, that I represent on a daily basis.
Yeah, I think it was good. I think it was very strong.
And you got your point across more
effective because in my opinion, you know, the young achiever was Ah,
a platform for young people. And therefore the platform is given and what the young
person does with the platform is up to them. Yeah. One thing, you know,
people do say occasionally is that you know, people use the platform to make a big statement, which again,
I actually encourage. But my personal which I think that’s not my life preference but,
but what I love to see is that people use it effectively to get the message across
and to bring people in the journey with them. And so that’s what you did, you know,
because I have seen in the Past where people try and use the opportunity. And
unfortunately it has almost adverse effect where it doesn’t bring people on the
journey. It does, does spark a conversation so that really, you know, effectively does that,
but it kind of doesn’t bring them on the journey with them and then keep that,
that following and that support going into the future. So
I guess that long winded comment is really to ask you in your journey as a, you know,
getting into advocacy and that kind of thing. How have you found the best way to
bring people with you on that journey?
Yeah, I think if you go into it wanting to be divisive,
you’ll get those sort of results. I never want to be divisive. I want to bring
people together. I want people that have an experience. So
a crime as heinous as what I’ve experienced to sort of not feel it, but I want them to get,
get an understanding of what’s out there and what’s going on. And the only way you
get people on board with your sort of mission is by having appropriate and
civilized conversations with them. I think pointing the finger at anyone is it’s
never the the answer. And that’s what I start to do. I
only ever want to bring people together and you know, it is, it is
a very grave and just this where it’s very stuck and there’s
a real power dynamic that’s. It’s a bit of a different thing, but yeah, that,
that’s, that’s always my intention. It’s never to be divisive or,
or create controversy. I don’t want to be that at all,
but I will use a platform like like I was given and
a platform that I’m very grateful that I was given. And I’m very grateful that I
was supported in my decision to utilise that platform to,
to give people an insight on what the point that I was making and how that would
have made people like me feel, I guess. Yes
. So yeah, really, really important to, to do it with the right intention.
Surely a bit easier to just be bitter though and an angry because you say such horrible
things. Yeah. How do you grapple with that with the,
with those emotions that and do they spill over into your, you know, everyday life?
Look, I think if you say things that make you inherently angry,
it’s better to sort of not be so reactive to things. So I think it’s great to sort
of see things through and think them through and feel them and then come up with an
argument or counsel. I think there’s a lot of sort of instances where there’s been reactive sort of statements and
people want to retract them later and stuff like that. So it’s better to sort of
think and your point will still be Relevant in
a few days time when you’ve thought of it. Instead of like an hour after the thing,
I think we live in such an instant. Everything’s at our fingertips and we get
everything we need.
It’s on, you know, movies are on demand. We have UberEATS food,
you know, everything’s so instant. And on social media,
we get an instant form of gratification. We feel that our output needs to be
instantaneous and I think it, I think it’s a real contrast when and it shows real empathy in real and
a real sort of thought out argument when someone waits and not like waits
intentionally but thinks it through. Yep. Yeah, I think that’s important.
So you’re a fan of the clapback two days later.
I reckon we should bring it in. That’s really good because I’m like, yeah,
I know exactly what you’re talking about and someone has this comment and you’re
just like, Oh, I just want to come back. That’s such, you know,
so it’s crap. They’re talking about. But then and the moment you’re like,
I haven’t really got the words to really say this in the right way. It’s not coming across.
You’re right. That it feels like, do you think that’s it. Now I have to say it.
Let me get back to you in forty eight hours. Guess
it should be mandatory on any argument just to get a little cooling off
period. Programs should listen to us and put like a forty eight hour timer on responses to comments.
It’s not a bad idea, Harrison. Another thing I want to come back to,
so I’ve had so many good points that I keep thinking, well,
I’ll come back to that. So coming back to that,
your work because of those police and the essay that you were talking about. So you know,
I’ve got in my notes that you were the voice and face of one of their campaigns. Was that something
a bit different for you with having to get behind the camera and recording and things like that?
Yeah, that was very different and it sort of gave me it was like
a trial to put on what I was,
what I’m doing now type of thing. You’re seeing how media operates and I sort of,
I was very grateful for that opportunity because it was
a great sort of starting point for when I could do my own thing later. I didn’t
realize I was going to do my own thing later,
was actually when did that take place that you were getting involved with that case?
Yeah, so Sara took place I was was introduced in December of last year and the launch
took place in early January of this year. Yeah,
yeah. So this is before your reference, St. Relevant was ever, it was, the idea was there,
but it was before it went to launch in May. Yeah. So there’s quite
a bit of time so, but to sort of get
a feel of what the space is like because I never really got involved in that.
And yeah, that was, that was,
it was an amazing privilege to be able to do that with the place. And like I
remember before we did the conference, I was in a room with the deputy premier,
sitting across from me and the commissioner, the police commissioner next to me as well. And I just was thinking,
I can’t believe I’m in this room right now and it’s real. Yeah. At the time,
I think I’ve been doing advocacy for three months now. And before this was after I
came out with a video I up so how I got started with advocacy was I uploaded
a video of my story and it got like a lot of got a lot of views.
So where did you upload that to? If people wanted to find that up,
Oh yeah, it’s on Instagram. Yep. Username is,
it’s Harry James, Harry. So then I but yeah, so I uploaded that video and it got
a lot of sort of views and then it solidified the following. For me,
that’s how I built some of those opportunities, but anyway, back to Sara. Yeah,
I was sitting there and I was like,
Oh this is crazy. That are built up to this point and yeah, it was, it was a great privilege,
but the real privilege was saying the numbers after the fact and the laws that
actually impacted that was like So I’m saying this selfishly,
but it was the greatest reward to see that it had made
a really positive impact on people’s lives. Because I know what it’s like to be
voiceless, and that’s, that could have given someone, you know,
a real voice and made them feel seen and heard and,
and respected. And I think that’s also I just want so to be a part of that was was
a real privilege. Yeah.
Yeah, that’s awesome. Let me know if you prefer not to talk about this, but you know,
with your personal situation and obviously you’re helping people now to,
to do the reporting and to get these results that for fairness and for justice for
what’s right. You know, in your situation, did you have to go through that?
Were you able to get justice for what happened to you?
Know, so I my stepmother to sexually
abused me from the ages of thirteen to sixteen and it happened every day before and
after school. And when I was fifteen,
she actually fell pregnant. To my daughter who I had to pretend was my sister so many years later,
to avoid being physically hurt by another certain family member. But then when I was nineteen,
they fled the country.
My stepmother took my daughter slash sister with her to her
home country of the Philippines. So my case and then that’s when I had to come
forward with my story and what happened for the first time to my family members. So
yeah, because they fled the country. I can’t get justice in the traditional sense,
but it keeps me. So I’ve changed my name legally so I can talk publicly about this
and stuff like that. And I put all those protective measures in place.
my justice doesn’t come from seeing my perpetrator on
a stand. It comes from helping other people. And that’s why I’m so driven into
helping others, so they don’t have to feel a tenth
of what I sort of feel, I guess,
even though. Yeah. So that’s what keeps me driven and keeps me going. So
yeah, I hope one day I can get justice but for now this is,
this is phenomenal. And I’m I’m so grateful that I’m able to help other people like
it really does it. It’s almost selfish because it really does bring me happiness. Like it does. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, compared to what you’ve been through the hard work you’re putting in, you know,
it might seem easy at times for you, I don’t
to put words in your mouth, but yeah,
I can see why obviously you’re so driven because of what you’ve been through that.
The journey you’ve had to endure? Yeah.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So. Yeah, going through that.
Losing my daughter as well. And then yeah, going through
a plethora of different things after the fact of grieving and um yeah,
I don’t want anyone anyone to feel anything like that. So hopefully I,
I hope I can help in any way and I think it is. So yeah.
Were you able to find support from your family as well?
Well, see, that’s the thing with Child sexual abuse that occurs in
a family. It’s different to something like say for instance,
a case of institutional child sexual abuse where a religious leader preys on
a child because that child’s family has a very clear enemy. When it happens with
a family, it divides the family. So some people go, well I can’t believe that, but some people do,
it creates this weird dynamic within the family. So it’s just another layer of trauma, I guess, because yeah,
some family members didn’t support and still don’t support what I do. They don’t believe what I say,
but other family members make up for that tenfold. So I’m really,
really grateful for. So it’s a difficult one to navigate, but yeah,
I just grateful for the ones that do support me.
It is, you know, people believing your story is that one of the hardest things for survivors to
grapple with and to, to battle through.
Well, I think We often say that it’s so important for survivors to be late,
which is so true because With we’re faced with such an
uphill battle and to not be believed is like it’s one of the
it’s the biggest punch in the guts of the whole sort of process of it,
especially when it’s family members and stuff like that. So yeah,
it’s imperative that survivors of AIDS, you know, and I spoke with recently about
a month ago, I was invited by New South Wales police to go to
a conference to speak about my story. And what police can do better in terms of
report when it comes to reporting. And I was telling them it’s so important
that everyone in this room realises the responsibility and the weight that comes
with the fact that we met that we will definitely be will most likely be the first
point of contact for survivors. And to say,
I believe you and what you’re saying in this moment, what you’re telling me,
I believe it’s so if we don’t do that,
it could completely change the trajectory of where survivor ends up. So it’s so important. It’s so important. Yeah, yeah.
I think for anyone who’s is listening and having questions around, whether it’s
a personal experience that they’ve had with someone else or stories that,
that don’t seem believable to think about. The situation that survivors are put through what they, as you said,
the hurdles they have to jump to get their story heard. It’s not
a nice thing. It’s not something they want to go through.
So I just always can’t
believe when people say, Oh, they want the attention. Yeah, you know, they
also like it’s a very rare according to statistics. They have very,
very rare and often when a false allegation does come up, it’s because the, it’s
a cry for help for something else. And it’s very,
very minimal. I don’t think any sane person would make something like this up
to just to go through the process of court and like it, it’s such
a draining and taxing process. No one. Yeah. I,
I couldn’t imagine anyone making it out to have to go through all that. It’s,
it’s hard, it’s horrible. Parents, the current system is horrible. So yeah,
that’s why it’s so important to Billie scruggs yet.
Well, thanks for sharing your story here as well. Because as I’ve said a few times,
it is important and it’s, you know, it’s difficult,
but it’s something that we need to talk about.
And hopefully by more people talking
about it and more people advocating like yourself,
it’s going to make it easier for people to talk about it to help support and,
and get behind things like the, your reference St Relevant campaign, which is,
you know, obviously exciting to hear that it’s coming to, you know, the next step in August.
Yeah. And just on that point as well, I think the conversations around child sexual abuse can be uncomfortable. But
that discomfort is necessary for progress. And we have to create a society that refuses to turn
a blind eye and works to support all survivors. That’s really important that we get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Yep.
Now I’ve got two questions for you before we wrap up. If that’s okay if you’ve got
a little bit more time. Oh
So as I mentioned, Spirit Super are sponsoring. This week’s episode of the inspirational strains
podcast and as such, they’ve actually provided a question. So I’ll put that forward to you. You know,
we’ve kind of covered it in other aspects,
but I want to ask it just to kind of get your thoughts on it anyway. You know,
if you can kind of boil it down to two,
one thing or maybe it’s more than one thing, but you know,
what is it that drives you to want to protect and help your community so actively
yeah, we’ve touched on it, but I’ll just reiterate it, it’s, I don’t want anyone else to feel
a tenth of what I’ve been through. It’s one of the most horrible things I think any
person can experience it’s innocence being stolen. You have to rebuild yourself. And it’s such
a traumatic thing to go through and it’s so rife as well. Like I mentioned those
statistics with one in three girls and one in five boys. That’s what drives me and yeah,
inciting change and I want to be I want to be for the fourteen year old boy going
through it today. What I needed when I was fourteen telling me Yeah, yeah. So that’s what drives me and
Yeah, yeah, well you’re doing it so publicly as you mentioned, Instagram, it’s Harry James,
Harry with a Y. And, you know, hopefully
it’s sad that there are, as you said,
that of course as fourteen year old boys that they’re going through it, which is sad in itself,
but hopefully they can see something come across their on social media. That gives
them hope, gives them motivation, gives them strength. And I think that’s what,
that’s what you’re doing.
The last question I had for you, Harrison,
is that your on the inspirations range podcast because you most certainly are an
incredibly inspirational person. But what is it that inspires you,
whether that’s on a day to day basis, or whether that’s, you know,
a long term kind of thing. What is that? Yeah, it inspires you, Harrison.
Oh, there’s a few examples. Actually. There’s the other survivors that I work with on
a almost daily basis. People like anecdotes, Shona, Amanda Morgan, Sarah Williams. Yeah, Sam Watson, they’re all people,
great time. They’re people I look up towards and I just think they’re amazing. And
I want to, I want to work with them and
I want to be their friends and I want to,
you know, it’s so and All right, they teach me to be
a better version of myself. They support me and they uplift me and yeah,
they’re great people to be around. The community of survivors is such an inspiring
and amazing group of people. And what inspires me in the long term,
I think. And this is just the complete self. And so like ego answer, I just want to leave
a legacy that lives beyond me.
And I hope that my work can
provide safety and security to generations of people you’re referenced and Relevant.
And what I’ve done with Sara and what I’ve done so far. I mean,
I’ve only been doing this for just over a year now it’s,
I can just say it’s only the beginning. I have my five year plan out of my ten year
plan. And yeah, it’s exciting that,
that drives me to keep going forward because I want, I want to leave the world
a better place before I go.
That’s brilliant, Harrison. Thank you for sharing that. And anyone listening out there,
if you know any young people in advocacy policy that have an important message,
please nominate them in the young achiever awards.
So we can help share their story
and hopefully inspire other people just like what Harrison is doing. So Harrison, thanks for your time today.
Thank you. I really appreciate it
and look forward to following your journey,
your advocacy and all the best with the with August and the your reference, any Relevant campaign.
Thanks Josh. Appreciate it.
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