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VICTIM ASKED PMO FOR HELP OVER ASSAULT BUT DID NOT GET ANY


Dhanya Mani reached out to the Prime Minister's office for help over an alleged indecent assault.


She says she did not get it.


Dhanya Mani, a former Liberal staffer in the NSW Baird government, alleges she was indecently assaulted by a colleague.


After going public in 2019, Ms Mani said she had a phone conversation with the Prime Minister's principal secretary Yaron Finkelstein, seeking a meeting with Mr Morrison.

She says Mr Finkelstein told her she could write a letter to Mr Morrison as a member of the public.


"In the months at the end of 2014, at the beginning of 2015, I was subjected to a case of abusive conduct by a senior staffer in NSW Parliament," Ms Mani told 7.30.


Ms Mani alleges this culminated in an incident where she was indecently assaulted in her own home, where she thought she would be safe.


She is critical of the response she received when she reported her allegations.

"I was told that it was my fault," she told 7.30.


"I was also told simply that it just wasn't true and I was making it up.


And the best case response that I got was to say, 'Well I guess we believe you but if you say anything, your political career will be over and this will be it for you.'"


After going public with her story in 2019 she was inundated with complaints from other women.


Frustrated by a lack of response in her own case, she approached the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison for help.


On August 23, 2019, Mr Morrison's principal secretary, Yaron Finkelstein, called her on her mobile.


Ms Mani said in her conversation with Mr Finkelstein:


"… We've received a number of complaints that relate to Coalition ministers, and part of a complaint relates to handling of a complaint by the Prime Minister's office, and as such we would want to try to seek a meeting, and I had wanted to let somebody in the office know of those matters as a courtesy, and also to see if that could be arranged, because obviously we're both party members and care about the party."


Ms Mani said the allegations she mentioned to Mr Finkelstein did not include the ones involving Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal staffer who alleges she was raped in Parliament House two years ago by another Liberal staffer.


"I asked for Mr Finkelstein's intervention because of the fact that I'd received an overwhelming number of complaints in the days after my story came out from women in federal politics and in state politics that related to ministers, members of cabinet, both levels, and also on a federal level to the way that the Prime Minister's office itself had been handling complaints."

The fallout from the alleged rape of a young political staffer at Parliament House continues to reverberate around Canberra.


From Ms Mani's perspective, the conversation was frustrating and disheartening.

"I felt that we were having two conversations," she said.


"There was a conversation that I was having with Mr Finkelstein where I was vulnerable and desperately attempting to seek help for myself and other women.


"And there was the conversation Mr Finkelstein was having with the political risk.

"And so when I was speaking to him about the issue, it was just galling.


In spite of everything that I said, Mr Finkelstein just said, 'You should have gone to the police and I don't understand why you didn't.


And I don't understand why you haven't told every other woman to do that as well.'"


Ms Mani says her point was that many assault victims did not want to go to the police and she was appealing for some internal party process to deal with complaints.


"I didn't want to go through a police process. I told him that. I told him that it would be traumatising. I told him that this is harmful to survivors. I told him that it doesn't offer justice, that it doesn't empower us. It doesn't afford us agency.


"It just felt that he was just wanting to say anything so that it wouldn't be his problem to deal with and it wouldn't be the Prime Minister's problem."


Ms Mani pressed Mr Finkelstein for what she could do to organise a meeting with the Prime Minister and whether he could help her do that.


Dhanya Mani says she has not been contacted by either Mr Finkelstein or any member of the Prime Minister's office since.


"He told me that I was just welcome to write a letter to the Prime Minister like any other member of the public, which was extremely upsetting given that I was talking to the Prime Minister's private secretary and I'd hoped that there would be compassion and empathy on some level, that it would be appreciated that I was personally reaching out and just sincerely asking for help.


"And so I ask him and I push him and say, 'Well, are you prepared to do anything to help arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister?' And almost grudgingly and bitterly he says, 'Oh well, I guess I'll send you my email address tomorrow and we'll have a conversation about that in future.'


"He's never contacted me again. Not once have I had any communication from either Mr Finkelstein or any member of the Prime Minister's office."


A spokesperson for the Morrison Government told 7.30 in a statement: "Mr Finkelstein encouraged Ms Mani to report to the relevant authorities any matters she deemed serious or that may have been a crime.


In regards to her own claim, Mr Finkelstein undertook to contact the NSW Premier's Chief of Staff to convey her views, which he did."


Since Ms Higgins went public with her allegations last week, the Prime Minister has ordered four separate reviews into the response to the alleged crime.




ABC AuspollBulletin

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