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Gemma Carey returns to Twitter after Christian Porter throwback photo backlash

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A professor who sparked a $200,000 legal row after a nine-word tweet about Christian Porter and his university mates has returned to Twitter with a cryptic post after taking a break.

University of NSW professor Gemma Carey went silent on the social media platform after copping abuse from online trolls and threats of defamation over the tweet made on October 24. 

Ms Carey came under fire after leaving a comment on a 20-year-old photo showing the former attorney general with Ten’s political editor Peter van Onselen and his wife Ainslie, and former Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth.

The throwback snap showed the long-time friends in black tie and evening wear at a formal night out during their days at the University of Western Australia, along with a second woman and several other men.

Ms Carey then made a nine-word tweet referring to the two women, which then sparked the threat of defamation actions from Mr Porter and Professor van Onselen.

The embattled professor deleted the tweet, posted an apology before disappearing and finally resurfacing on Twitter on Friday night.

University of NSW Professor Gemma Carey went silent on the social media platform after online trolls bombarded her profile following the tweet on October 24

University of NSW Professor Gemma Carey went silent on the social media platform after online trolls bombarded her profile following the tweet on October 24

Professor Gemma Carey went to ground after sparking a legal row with a nine word tweet about an old picture of Christian Porter (left) and his university mates Dr Nick Coastworth (centre, left) and Professor Peter van Onselen, centre right with wife Ainslie, centre

Professor Gemma Carey went to ground after sparking a legal row with a nine word tweet about an old picture of Christian Porter (left) and his university mates Dr Nick Coastworth (centre, left) and Professor Peter van Onselen, centre right with wife Ainslie, centre

The embattled professor deleted the tweet, posted an apology before disappearing and finally resurfacing on Twitter on Friday night

The embattled professor deleted the tweet, posted an apology before disappearing and finally resurfacing on Twitter on Friday night

‘Okay I’m here,’ Ms Carey tweeted. ‘I’ve always been a very straight shooter (in life, on twitter etc) and so yep, this space has been way too much for me these last weeks.’

The reaction online was a mix of trolls attacking Ms Carey and supporters defending the university professor and launching an #enough campaign. 

‘I’m proud of #enough and the cases being supported and the money raised for them, but it’s come with my own personal costs,’ Ms Carey tweeted.

‘I’m here now. I can’t promise I’ll still be here tomorrow, or the day after. But I’ll see how I go. Gotta live to fight another day, right.

‘(Abuse will be blocked immediately, no questions asked). Don’t complain when I do it, just don’t be an a**.’

Professor van Onselen previously unleashed on Ms Carey for ‘hiding her apology’ to him which had been posted on Twitter. 

The prominent political commentator claimed Ms Carey has removed her public apology from Twitter, after the professor deleted her account on the platform. 

He reposted screenshots of her original apology on his own Twitter account, sparking a mixed reaction from social media users. 

The professor claimed under ‘the terms of the requirement’ the professor had been asked to ‘pin’ the original apology on her Twitter page. 

‘Because Gemma Carey has removed her Twitter account (no doubt she’ll be back, the attention will be craved) doing so has removed her apologies to both my wife and me for her utterly unprofessional and appallingly defamatory tweets,’ he said. 

‘So here is the apology, for the record’.  

A legal furore broke out after University of New South Wales Professor Gemma Carey (pictured with husband Ben O'Mara) made her nine word comment on the pic

A legal furore broke out after University of New South Wales Professor Gemma Carey (pictured with husband Ben O’Mara) made her nine word comment on the pic

Political editor Peter van Onselen has claimed Ms Carey was going against the 'terms of the requirement' when she deleted her Twitter account, and her public apology (pictured)

Political editor Peter van Onselen has claimed Ms Carey was going against the ‘terms of the requirement’ when she deleted her Twitter account, and her public apology (pictured)

One Twitter user questioned the professor that while Ms Carey's tweet was 'inappropriate' if there was any need to still take legal action, or simply accept her apology

One Twitter user questioned the professor that while Ms Carey’s tweet was ‘inappropriate’ if there was any need to still take legal action, or simply accept her apology

One user questioned Prof Onselen’s need to post screenshots of her apology. 

‘Why? She’s apologised to you (possibly under duress), just let it go. We know Prof Carey has done what you demanded. Maybe try and be a better citizen and move on,’ the man replied to the tweet. 

‘Better citizen… I’m so sorry she defamed me, my apologies, my fault,’ the commentator responded. 

Another user asked why Prof Onselen’s wanted the issue to ‘remain in the public eye’. 

‘If I were defamed I would want the matter over with ASAP,’ they wrote.  

‘For what it’s worth, the terms of the requirement included her pinning the tweet. She’s instead deleted her account, so I’ve pinned it. No biggie, but no apology either. I don’t apologise for being defamed,’ the political editor responded.

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured here with husband Ben O'Mara) is one of five cases a GoFundMe campaign is raising money for to fight defamation threats from politicians

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured here with husband Ben O’Mara) is one of five cases a GoFundMe campaign is raising money for to fight defamation threats from politicians 

Prof Carey’s nine-word tweet came in the wake of Mr Porter’s resignation from Cabinet in September over his defamation lawsuit against the ABC after he identified himself as the man accused of an historic rape.

Mr Porter has vehemently denied the allegations that date back to 1988 when he was 17. 

Van Onselen, 45, came under fire at the time for supporting his long-time friend – who introduced the TV analyst to his wife.

Prof Carey was hit with three legal notices in one email after making the jibe. 

The notices all arrived in the same email from the same high-profile lawyer, Rebekah Giles, who has previously represented Mr Porter, as well as Brittany Higgins and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Professor Carey was sent a legal concern notices on behalf of former attorney general Christian Porter (pictured)

A concerns notice, which often precede defamation actions, was also sent on behalf of TV political analyst Peter van Onselen (pictured)

She was sent concerns notices – which often precede defamation actions – on behalf of Mr Porter (left), Prof van Onselen (right, with wife Ainslie) and Queensland MP Andrew Laming

Former Australian deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, 43, (pictured) was not part of the legal action

Prof Carey has now deleted her original tweet and publicly apologised to Mr Porter and Prof van Onselen for her reply about the photograph. Dr Coatsworth has not been involved in the legal row.

‘On 24th October 2021, I commented on a photograph of Peter van Onselen when he was at university with others & that comment was completely inappropriate & highly offensive and I should never have published it,’ she tweeted.

‘It has now been deleted and I unconditionally withdraw my comment and apologise to Mr van Onselen for the hurt caused to him and his wife by my conduct.’

Mr Porter received an almost identical reply.

The email sent to Professor Carey with the three legal action notices from the same lawyer

She has also issued an apology to backbench Liberal MP Andrew Laming, 55, for earlier comments she made about him over a flight she once shared with him. 

Australian cricketer Jason Gillespie even became embroiled in the row after he was wrongly identified by others online as being in the pic.

He took to Twitter to deny he was the man on the far right after he was repeatedly mistaken for lookalike Australian Financial Review journalist, James Eyers, who was also a friend of the group.

Prof Carey, who is in her 30s, is a childhood sexual abuse survivor and last year published a book No Matter Our Wreckage about her traumatic ordeals growing up.  

She is the Academic Director for UNSW’s Centre for Social Impact and suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which can cause total paralysis in extreme cases. 

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s (pictured here with husband Ben O'Mara), is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and has written a book No Matter Our Wreckage about her traumatic ordeals growing up

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s (pictured here with husband Ben O’Mara), is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and has written a book No Matter Our Wreckage about her traumatic ordeals growing up

Australian of the Year Grace Tame (pictured) made the first donation of $2500 to a fighting fund set up to defend against any possible defamation action, which has now surged past $200,000

Australian of the Year Grace Tame (pictured) made the first donation of $2500 to a fighting fund set up to defend against any possible defamation action, which has now surged past $200,000

Prof Carey is shunning the spotlight in the wake of the legal row and declined to comment. She has also taken a Twitter break following the furore.

But the legal stoush has sparked a furious backlash from the public, who donated a staggering $200,000-plus in just a few days to fund her legal bill.

Friend Nina Funnell, 37, told Daily Mail Australia that Prof Carey still faces further legal action despite her apology and is also being pursued for ‘substantial’ legal costs. 

The GoFundMe fundraiser was started by Ms Funnell and took off after Australian of the Year Grace Tame became involved.

The Walkley Award-winning journalist worked with Ms Tame, 26, on the #LetHerSpeak campaign and joined forces again to raise money for Prof Carey.

They originally set out to raise $10,000, kickstarted with a $2500 donation from Ms Tame, but it quickly rocketed past the $200,000 mark after Ms Tame tweeted it.

‘It just snowballed,’ said Ms Funnell, from Sydney. ‘It became very clear very quickly that this issue had hit a nerve.

Walkley Award-wining journalist Nina Funnell (right) worked with Grace Tame (left) on the #LetHerSpeak campaign and joined forces again to raise money for Prof Carey

Walkley Award-wining journalist Nina Funnell (right) worked with Grace Tame (left) on the #LetHerSpeak campaign and joined forces again to raise money for Prof Carey

Friend Nina Funnell, 37, (pictured) told Daily Mail Australia that Prof Carey still faces further legal action despite her apology and is also being pursued for 'substantial' legal costs

Friend Nina Funnell, 37, (pictured) told Daily Mail Australia that Prof Carey still faces further legal action despite her apology and is also being pursued for ‘substantial’ legal costs

‘We want it to go to help as many people as possible but also we want to highlight the public’s frustration with defamation laws and the clear impetus for reform.

‘It is a phenomenal amount of money and I think it shows a phenomenal outpouring of sentiment on the subject.

‘Clearly Australians feel passionately about this issue.’ 

The campaign plans to use the $200,000 war chest to cover Prof Carey’s legal bill, but aims to spread the fight to help other people in a similar position.

Now lawyers and campaigners are lining up several more cases to use the fund to fight back against MPs resorting to legal action.

Defence minister Peter Dutton last month took refugee advocate Shane Bazzi to court over comments he made on Twitter.

‘When politicians start employing defamation law to silence their critics, it’s a very dangerous time for our democracy,’ said Ms Funnell.   

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s and see here with husband Ben O'Mara, is shunning the spotlight in the wake of the legal row and has taken a Twitter break following the furore

Prof Gemma Carey, who is in her 30s and see here with husband Ben O’Mara, is shunning the spotlight in the wake of the legal row and has taken a Twitter break following the furore

She added: ‘Christian Porter himself said when he was attorney general that the defamation laws are not fit for purpose.’ 

Prof van Onselen has stressed he was not part of a coordinated strike on Prof Carey and is not taking action against anyone else.  

‘We had zero to do with any coordination,’ he posted on Twitter. ‘I was not in any way shape or form associated with anyone else. 

‘I am the victim here, as is my wife, of defamatory comments now apologised for. 

‘I won’t back down from a position of no wrongdoing, that much I can assure you. I am the victim here, of Gemma Carey and her disgraceful tweets.’

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured) is the Academic Director for UNSW's Centre for Social Impact and suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which can cause total paralysis in extreme cases

Prof Gemma Carey (pictured) is the Academic Director for UNSW’s Centre for Social Impact and suffers from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which can cause total paralysis in extreme cases

As well as Prof Carey, and three other individuals who wish to remain anonymous, the fifth case involves the Older Women’s Network which is also facing legal action from Mr Laming over a now-deleted Facebook post last month.

‘We now want to hear from anyone else in a similar position. We will cover as many people’s legal bills as possible for as far as the money extends,’ Ms Funnell said. 



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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