Inner West Courier
Inner West edition
March 11, 2008
A young woman who stood up to the Ashfield gang rapists and paved the way for justice for other sexual assault survivors is a finalist in the NSW Woman of the Year award.
Tegan Wagner, 20, took the unusual step of allowing her identity to be made public when her rape trial ended and her attackers were sentenced in 2006, almost four years after the incident.
Her decision won Wagner widespread praise for her courage and determination. She said she was happy and surprised at her latest victory.
“I didn’t expect it. Really. Everybody is strong, you just have to believe it,” Wagner said.
Wagner has become an advocate for the rights of rape victims and written a book about her experience, The Making of Me.
She said the personal responses she has received to her story proved that rape continues to be a highly under reported crime and that more education is needed.
“Right now I have about 400 emails from girls and I’d be lucky if I could say that 10 [of those girls] went to the police,” she said. “This is such a huge issue and it’s still not out there enough.”
Wagner’s message to women and girls in her position is to keep going and keep strong.
“You’ve got to push through it, because if you just give up, then nothing’s going to happen and you’re just going to get depressed over it. Whereas, if you keep going you feel satisfied at the end of the day knowing you’ve fought as hard as you could, no matter what the result was.”
For the first time, nominations for the 2008 award were sought from the community, with Wagner nominated by Karen Willis from the NSW Rape Crisis Centre in Drummoyne.
In announcing the 12 finalists, Balmain MP and Minister for Women, Verity Firth
said the awards “highlighted the work that so many extraordinary women in our community are doing every day.”
“It is a humbling experience to hear their stories and appreciate the diverse and extraordinary contributions these women make”, Minister Firth said.
Other finalists included a high school anti-whaling campaigner, Aboriginal community activists, a harbour master and marine pilot, and a support provider for families living with mental illness.
The finalists were Pam Boney, Skye Bortoli, Jean Cinis, Josephine Clark, Janny Ely, Catherine Hall, Dianne Madden, Bev Manton, Melinda Medway, Alice Oppen, Tegan Wagner and Ruth Wilson.
Dianne Madden, founder and President of Camp Kookaburra, which provides networking and support for children aged 8 to 12 living with a relative affected by mental illness, was announced as the winner of the 2008 award at the Premier’s reception for International Women’s Day on March 6.
*This article was first published in the Inner West Courier, Inner West edition, March 11, 2008.