Brittany Higgins extends remarkable olive branch to former bosses Linda Reynolds and Fiona Brown

Rhianna Mitchell
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Brittany Higgins has extended an olive branch to her former boss Linda Reynolds, saying it’s ‘time to heal’ and that she regrets them not yet having found common ground as yet another defamation trial looms.
Brittany Higgins has extended an olive branch to her former boss Linda Reynolds, saying it’s ‘time to heal’ and that she regrets them not yet having found common ground as yet another defamation trial looms. Credit: The Nightly

Brittany Higgins has extended an olive branch to her former boss Linda Reynolds, saying it is “time to heal” and that she deeply regrets them not yet having found common ground as yet another defamation trial looms.

In her first statement since Justice Michael Lee sensationally found Ms Higgins was raped by her ex-colleague Bruce Lehrmann at Parliament House, she said she was “sorry” that the outgoing Senator and her chief of staff Fiona Brown were hurt in the fallout from the allegation.

“My perceptions and feelings about what happened in the days and weeks after my rape are different from theirs,” she said in an Instagram post, breaking her silence for the first time since the highly-anticipated Federal Court judgment was handed down on Monday.

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“I hope we can resolve our differences with a better understanding of each other’s experience.

“I was 24 when I was raped in Parliament House. It has been five years of criminal and civil trials and government inquiries for the truth to finally be heard.

“It is now time to heal.”

A 2022 criminal trial of Mr Lehrmann was aborted due to juror misconduct.

But in dismissing a defamation case brought by Mr Lehrmann against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson over their coverage of the case, Justice Lee found that on the balance of probabilities — the civil justice standard — he raped the then 24-year-old in Ms Reynolds’ office in March 2019 when she was defence minister.

In his findings, Justice Lee excoriatingly described Mr Lehrmann’s action as, “having escaped the lions’ den”, making “the mistake of going back for his hat”.

He found Mr Lehrmann was so “hell-bent“ on having sex with Ms Higgins that he was recklessly indifferent to her consent.

”In his pursuit of gratification, he did not care one way or another whether Ms Higgins understood or agreed to what was going on,” Justice Lee said.

But the saga is far from over, with planning for another Higgins trial — this time with her being accused of defamation by Ms Reynolds - well advanced.

Ms Reynold is suing Ms Higgins — her former junior media adviser — and Ms Higgins’ fiance David Sharaz, over social media posts she said they planned deliberately to damage her.

WA Supreme Court Justice Marcus Solomon had desperately tried to get the warring sides to settle, ordering face-to-face mediation that stretched on for a marathon 10 hours last month.

But a resolution could not be found and on April 3, WA Supreme Court Justice Paul Tottle was asked to map out a scheduled six-week trial starting in July.

The same judge who conducted the mediation could not also preside over the trial.

Before Ms Higgins posted her surprisingly conciliatory statement, Senator Reynolds’ high-profile barrister, Martin Bennett, would not completely rule out the prospect of a settlement.

“At the moment, we need to prepare for a trial,” he said. “If we sit around hoping for things to settle, they never do.”

Mr Bennett told The West Australian after the statement went public on Saturday that it was inappropriate to comment as the matter remained before the courts.

“It’s inappropriate to and mediate or resolve it via the media - there’s a process to go through,” Mr Bennett said.

“We’ll see how the process develops from here.”

He said it was inevitable that Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz would both have to give evidence.

In the post, Ms Higgins said she felt “compelled” to tell her story, describing the many impacts it had had on her life and saying “no judgment was ever going to change this truth”.

“I lived with the shame, humiliation, and fear of what telling my story would mean for my life and career, like so many other victim-survivors.

“I was scared I wouldn’t be believed or supported.

“My health, memory and relationships have been impacted by my rape.”

Brittany Higgins says it is ‘time to heal’ and deeply regrets she has not found common ground with her former bosses Linda Reynolds and Fiona Brown.
Brittany Higgins says it is ‘time to heal’ and deeply regrets she has not found common ground with her former bosses Linda Reynolds and Fiona Brown. Credit: The West Australian

Ms Higgins said she was devastated “that a rapist was given a nationwide platform to maintain his lies about what happened” - and she trusted “those who contributed in any way” to his defamation action to “reflect on their decision”.

She reflected, on how she had helped expose a toxic culture in Parliament House, which was “not something I just imagined”.

“For decades, women working in Parliament House have not been heard.

“There was no safe space for them to speak up or raise serious complaints.

“Thousands of staff working in Commonwealth Ministerial offices, from every side of politics, came forward and contributed to the Jenkins Review.

“Their stories, like mine, have shone a light on the conditions that have fed such a toxic culture and been wilfully ignored for too long.”

Ms Higgins thanked Justice Lee — who found she was an “unsatisfactory witness” along with Mr Lehrmann — for “his trauma-informed approach, recognising that reactions to assault can vary wildly”.

“In doing so, I hope he has set a new precedent for how courts consider the testimonies of victim-survivors of sexual assault,” she said.

“While I do not agree with all of Justice Lee’s findings, I do respect his observations about the many people scarred and damaged in the aftermath of my rape.”

Ms Higgins thanked her family for their “incredible support” and strength, when faced with “a seemingly unrelenting barrage of hate”.

They had “consistently held me together at times when I thought I would fall apart”, Ms Higgins wrote.

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