One of the ACT’s newest parliamentarians has used her maiden speech to detail sexual harassment she says she suffered while working with a prominent New Zealand academic.
Dr Marisa Paterson told the ACT Legislative Assembly she lodged a formal complaint against a pro vice-chancellor at a leading New Zealand university in 2019, less than a week before nominating to contest the seat of Murrumbidgee in the territory’s October election.
The 37-year-old is Labor’s newest member and one of four newly-elected parliamentarians to give their inaugural speeches today.
Dr Paterson told the Assembly that after lodging her complaint the system “failed” her, and that action was only taken against her alleged perpetrator after she made her complaint public.
The mother-of-three worked as the director of the Centre for Gambling Research at the Australian National University when the complaint was made.
Dr Paterson said what started off as a “mentor-type” relationship ended with two years of sexual harassment, stalking and bullying.
She told the Assembly she thought she would lose her job if she complained about her superior.
“My marriage had ended, and I was on my own with three very young children. I very acutely felt the pressure of my income, being the only income,” she said in her speech.
“I felt that making a formal complaint directly jeopardised my job and career prospects.”
She said the man did not stop the behaviour, ignoring her requests.
“I attempted to navigate the situation for over two years. I asked him so many times to stop, he did not,” she said.
“I am someone who derives a lot of self-worth from my work. I work hard and I pride myself in my professionalism.
“This threatened what I had worked for, what I had diligently built.”
Dr Paterson said that after she made her complaint she expected an investigation, but none took place.
“This man continued to hold a position of power over my career, and now that I had made the formal complaint, that felt even more threatening,” she said.
“I had no protection and no justice.”
Dr Paterson eventually took her story to a journalist and said only then did the man’s employer act.
The academic accused of the behaviour resigned from his position and a review into sexual harassment at the university was launched.

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