Sacking a woman for her views on abortion? Cricket Australia should be ashamed | Melanie Tait | Opinion


Tasmania is already a tricky place to speak up. It’s a place where expressing your opinion is likely to aggrieve someone close to you – a sibling, an aunt, an uncle, a boss, a cousin of a boss, a neighbour, a mate.

The news happens very close to people in Tasmania. The drama behind the sacking of Angela Williamson by Cricket Australia happened across the road from my home, where I write this now. I discussed it this morning with my neighbour, on the sand out the front of Blundstone Arena, where Cricket Tasmania’s offices gaze on the beautiful Bellerive Beach.

Every Tasmanian knows this, and thinks accordingly of what’s at stake when speaking out about something important. As a relatively new Tasmanian, I’ve often wondered if that’s part of the reason things change here a little slower than everywhere else.

Three weeks before Cricket Australia was trumpeting its credentials as female-friendly for the world to see via Twitter, they terminated Williamson’s employment as the manager of public policy and government relations.

Cricket Australia
(@CAComms)

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July 16, 2018

Her crime? On her own personal Twitter account, she expressed views over Tasmania’s unacceptable abortion situation. She also spoke confidentially to the Tasmanian government about her own experience travelling interstate for a termination.

This is an issue women all over Tasmania are angry about. They’re gathering in front of parliament to protest. They’re talking with friends, they’re taking to their own social media feeds to express their upset over it.

Williamson is the first to be sacked for it. While working within a male-dominated culture, with a male-dominated board. What an enormous surprise.

Since December when the last clinic closed, there has been no place to have a surgical abortion in Tasmania. The only legal solution is to fly to mainland Australia and have one.

In the recent state election, the Labor party promised a new facility for safe abortions, the Liberal party were conspicuously quiet on the matter. Re-elected and now in government, the Liberal policy is to send women interstate for a surgical abortion, and that doesn’t look to be changing.

According to a story published by Fairfax on Monday, Williamson made an appointment to chat – in confidence – with someone in government about her own experience in February going to Victoria to have a termination. Days later, her tweets had been combed through, her employer alerted and she received her notice of termination from Cricket Australia.

Williamson is a professional mother of three, in her late 30s, and obtaining a termination in another state was understandably difficult for her – it took time off work, arrangements to be made for her children, increased financial and emotional distress at what was already a vexed time.

What about the 15-year-old who needs a surgical abortion, but doesn’t feel able to tell her parents? How does she explain a trip to Melbourne? How does she even obtain permission to fly interstate in the first place?

This is a dastardly policy that will reverberate through the Tasmanian community for years to come. In a developed country like Australia it’s unconscionable it would even be considered in 2018.

Williamson, knowing about the trickiness of speaking up in Tasmania, went to her government confidentially to share her story, hoping to make change. It didn’t. So, she spoke publicly.

Cricket Australia and Cricket Tasmania need to get with the times. If they really believe in welcoming women into their culture, they could start by not sacking women who stand up for a fundamental women’s right. They could value that staff member and her courage over losing face with the state government.

Yet, the real villain in this story is the Tasmanian government. It’s been eight months since a Tasmanian woman could have a surgical abortion in her home state. The very real stress this is causing Tasmanian women can’t be underestimated.

It’s an issue that should have been sorted out the day after the last clinic was closed. Instead, today, we see the first public victim of the Tasmanian government’s shameful inaction.

  • Melanie Tait is a Hobart-based journalist, author and playwright





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