The 21-year-old student who helped reveal a secret scholarship awarded to the Prime Minister’s daughter has issued her first public statement since pleading guilty to accessing the restricted data without authorisation.
Freya Newman, who retrieved the student records of Frances Abbott while working as a part-time librarian at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, thanked supporters on Sunday but declined offers of financial assistance.
In a statement issued from her personal twitter account Ms Newman suggested those who offered to help cover legal costs make a donation to non-for-profit organisation Gunawirra or the Aboriginal Legal Service.
“I am very grateful for all the kind words and generous offers of support I have received over the past couple of months, including several requests to help cover my legal costs,” Ms Newman wrote.
“As my lawyers all appeared pro bono, the only expense I have incurred is a $159 court fee, which I will happily pay out of pocket.”
“If you would like to show solidarity nonetheless you could consider donating to Gunawirra, which is a non-for-profit working to support Aboriginal families.”
— Freya S Newman (@freyanewmn) December 14, 2014
In November Ms Newman escaped having a conviction recorded after Downing Centre Local Court Magistrate Teresa O’Sullivan handed her a good behaviour bond.
Police prosecutors have not appealed the verdict and now have under a week left to do so.
Earlier in the year Ms Newman pleaded guilty to accessing the student records of Frances Abbott in contravention of Section 308H of the NSW Crimes Act.
Despite breaching the Act, the Court accepted that Ms Newman had not been motivated by the desire for personal gain or any ill will towards the PM’s daughter, and instead had been driven by a sense of injustice.
Ms Newman had not been aware she was committing an offense at the time.
The information she accessed indicated Frances Abbott had been lured to study at the private Whitehouse Institute with a $60,000 scholarship that was never publicly advertised.
While the Institute and the Prime Minister’s Office maintain the scholarship was awarded on merit, staff and students at the college have cast doubt on that claim, and documents revealed Ms Abbott met with the college’s owner just once before receiving the award.
The story and resulting legal fallout drew national attention, with Education Minister Christopher Pyne tweeting his displeasure at the eventual verdict and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon vowing to introduce a bill to Parliament defending whistleblowers who work with private education providers.
Despite being swamped by media at Downing Centre Court appearances, Newman has kept a low profile since being charged for accessing the documents.
Frances Abbott has publicly spoken about the incident only once, forgiving Ms Newman but deriding her actions.
“To be honest, it’s just like as a small child you learn it’s not right to read someone’s diary,” she said.
“It’s not right to hack into anything. That’s all I’ve got to say on it.”
Ms Newman’s statement did respond to Ms Abbott's comments.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.