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EXCLUSIVE: Prominent voices support Porter rape allegation inquiry

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Fashion designer Gwendolynne Burkin (Edited image via gwendolynne.com.au) has added her voice to those calling for an independent inquiry into rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter (Screenshot via YouTube)

Leading fashion designer Gwendolynne Burkin adds her voice to the groundswell of support for an independent inquiry into rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter. Dr Amanda Gearing reports.

*CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses rape and suicide

FELLOW SCHOOL STUDENTS of the woman who alleged she had been brutally raped in 1988 by Attorney-General Christian Porter have defended the woman’s credibility, intelligence and character.

The alleged victim, who has been identified simply as Kate, was a member of Australia’s national debating squad. [Kate's surname has been withheld out of respect for her family's request for privacy.]

One fellow member of Kate's school debating team, Gwendolynne Burkin, who is now a leading fashion designer in Melbourne, said she worked directly with the girl to prepare debates at their Adelaide school. 

Ms Burkin said:

Kate was exceptional. She was smart beyond her years. She was a top debater in Australia at 15.

She was in the national debating competitions and was dux of the school.

She was an outstanding young woman who we all thought could go on to be Australia’s first female prime minister. She was articulate. She was smart. She was an amazing debater. She had charisma. She was very focussed on her future.

The two women both graduated from school in 1988 but lost touch as Ms Burkin moved to Melbourne. However, they reconnected again at an informal reunion of past students on 22 July 2019.

Ms Burkin said:

“We had a reunion and had a FaceTime chat with [Kate]. She disclosed what had happened to her. She disclosed that she was raped when she was 16 and that this person was now very powerful.

It was quite a shock to hear what she went through. Kate didn’t use his name but she said his position.”

On the FaceTime chat, Kate appeared consumed by her frustration in seeking justice because of the complication of the high profile of the alleged offender (Christian Porter), although she had gone to the police:

“She spoke about the legal complications. She was very tormented by the risk of defamation and losing everything because of his position.”

A group of Kate's school friends support calls for an independent inquiry into the allegations.

Ms Burkin said the credibility of the rape allegation should be respected:

“She was definitely a very honest and logical, smart person. There's no question that she would have fabricated something."

Kate is believed to have suicided in June 2020 and Ms Burkin suggested the frustration of seeking justice may have been a reason why.

Ms Burkin said:

"That’s why it was all so difficult for her and why it ate her up so much. She couldn’t get any kind of justice.

There’s no doubt she was frustrated by the whole situation. She was tormented by it.”

If you would like to speak to someone about sexual violence, please call the 1800 Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online, or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Dr Amanda Gearing is a Walkley-award winning investigative journalist, author and broadcaster. You can follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaGearing.

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