NOW Australia, the #MeToo initiative started by Tracey Spicer, folds

NOW Australia, the #MeToo initiative started by Tracey Spicer, folds

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NOW Australia announced it was closing on its website on Friday, saying the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the national funding landscape.

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“We have taken the difficult, but fiscally responsible decision to close down,” it said.

NOW Australia eventually dropped its plans for a one-stop shop for survivors. In a statement, the organisation listed among its achievements writing a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into sexual harassment.

It also worked with other campaigns such as Fair Agenda’s election scorecard, and helped Gender Equality Victoria create a toolkit for witnesses to intervene in sexism and online harassment.

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Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show NOW Australia raised more than $130,000 through public donations in 2018 and only $9000 in 2019.

Remaining funds will be shared with women’s organisation the YWCA and Justice Connect to support its Gateway Project, which connects people to free legal help.

Nina Funnell, a journalist and campaigner for survivors of sexual violence, had long criticised NOW Australia for failing to properly consult the sector before its launch.

She said the public donations could have been better spent by an experienced organisation.

“From my perspective, it was a doomed project from the beginning because there hadn’t been anywhere near enough consultative groundwork before they launched this initiative, which may have been well intentioned – but good intentions alone don’t actually lead to structural reform,” Funnell said on Tuesday.

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“Sexual harassment and gender-based violence is an enormous problem in this country and I’m hopeful and optimistic that we’ll learn from the mistakes that have happened here, and the next initiative will be a lot more robust.”

Professor Nareen Young, from the University of Technology Sydney, resigned from the NOW Australia board in 2018. She said its demise was sad.

But she said it was “mishandled from the beginning” and agreed that proper consultation with the sector wasn’t done.

“It’s just really sad that what transpired, transpired … it’s a pity it wasn’t done properly,” the professor with extensive non-profit experience said on Tuesday.

“It’s just sad. It’s really sad that things happened the way it happened.”

NOW was inundated with about 2000 disclosures of sexual misconduct after Spicer called on women to email her their stories following the avalanche of allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement that ensued.

Funnell said the survivors who disclosed their experiences needed to be properly informed about what happened to their information and how it would be stored.

Some women have said they never heard back from the organisation.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or harassment you can call 1800-RESPECT on 1800 737 732. You can also contact mental health services Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

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