A Liberal Party staffer has alleged she was raped at Australian Parliament House in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office by a colleague, and claims she felt forced to choose between reporting it to the police or keeping her job.

In explosive allegations detailing the Morrison Government’s handling of the incident, media adviser Brittany Higgins has told news.com.au that she spent the last two years “internalising the trauma”.

She has also revealed that she was brought to a formal employment meeting about the incident in the room where she was allegedly raped — a decision the Morrison Government has now accepted was an error by the then Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds.

Ms Higgins was just 24 at the time of the incident and only months into her “dream job” of working at parliament.

The alleged sexual assault occurred in the early hours of March 23, 2019, just weeks before Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the election on April 10, 2019.

After a night of drinking with colleagues, Ms Higgins alleges she was assaulted in her own office by another Liberal staffer who she says was regarded as a “rising star” in the party.

She remembers the man buying “lots of rounds of drinks” at the event before it was suggested he lived in the same direction and his taxi could drop her home on the way.

Instead, he took her to Parliament House.

“I didn’t have a pass. I was in a cocktail dress,” she said.

“At that point I was very intoxicated. I thought, ‘Well, I am well and truly done. I need to go.’ And so there were only four of us left. We were going the same way.”

Ms Higgins said she was so affected by alcohol and did not have her security pass that the Liberal staffer needed to sign her in with security officers.

Despite reporting the incident to the Australian Federal Police within days of it occurring, Ms Higgins ultimately chose not to make a formal complaint, a decision she said was driven by her desire at the time to protect the Liberal party and her “dream job” on the eve of the election.

“It was just about my job. If it had happened on a street corner away from parliament there was no doubt in my mind. Of course. Of course,’’ Ms Higgins said.

By the Friday, Senator Reynolds’ chief of staff had outlined her concerns it was an alleged sexual assault to the Department of Finance and received advice on whether or not they should go to police themselves. The advice suggested this should be left in Ms Higgins control.

It also included a checklist of things that needed to be done such as offering to expand the number of EAP sessions Ms Higgins could access — something Ms Higgins insists never happened.

The advice also suggests that the chief of staff and Senator Reynolds had repeatedly encouraged her to go to police, something that did not occur until several days later.

Senator Reynolds’ chief of staff contacted Ms Higgins to set up an opportunity to discuss the matter in her office. This meeting was conducted in the room where Ms Higgins says she was raped.

A spokesman for the Morrison Government conceded this was a mistake.

“The Government takes all matters of workplace safety very seriously. No one should feel unsafe in a workplace,’’ a spokesman said.

At the end of January this year, Ms Higgins advised the Morrison Government she could no longer deal with the emotional fallout from the alleged assault and she wished to resign and leave Canberra.

Ms Higgins said she hoped telling her story would drive change in the parliamentary work culture.

“I was ashamed before. I kind of internalised it,’’ she said. “I felt like I wanted to leave parliament. It’s not a place I want to stay.

“I don’t think what happened to be is remarkable. It happens all the time. It is devastating and soul destroying and I think about it everyday but the only thing that I know made people care about it was where it happened and who it was connected to. They didn’t care about me. They cared about the party.”

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