Brittany Higgins' mother has told a court her daughter was a "broken soul" who had become withdrawn and lost her enthusiasm for life after the claimed sexual assault.
The court heard separately that an emotional Higgins also made confronting statements to a then colleague about her inability to consent, days after being allegedly raped on a minister's couch by Bruce Lehrmann.
Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson are trying to establish the truth of the rape allegation featured in a February 2021 broadcast of The Project.
Mr Lehrmann is suing them over the broadcast, which first televised Ms Higgins' allegation of being raped in a ministerial office two years earlier. Mr Lehrmann claims this report is defamatory and denies that any sexual contact between himself and Ms Higgins occurred.
The interview did not name Mr Lehrmann but he claims being identified by a number of reported details and suffering damages as a result.
Ms Higgins' mother, Kelly Higgins, said her daughter came to live with her soon after the report on The Project and she was a totally different person to the woman she was before the alleged sexual assault.
"Her joy was gone, her desire was gone, her personal happiness was gone," she said.
"She is a broken soul."
In November 2019, Ms Higgins first disclosed the rape allegation to her mother and her mother's then-partner at a restaurant.
"I'd just been told a mother's worst nightmare," she said.
She denied suggestions by Lehrmann's barrister, Steven Whybrow SC, that this disclosure did not occur.
Ms Higgins' father, Matthew Higgins, said he didn't recognise his daughter during a trip to Canberra with his partner Kellie Jago on the weekend after the alleged sexual assault.
"Usually she's like a really positive, happy, vivacious young girl," he told Justice Michael Lee.
"She was absolutely quiet and withdrawn."
Ms Jago said she came across Ms Higgins bawling in her room when the then-Liberal staffer flew to Queensland to visit some time in 2019.
'I could not have consented'
Former departmental liaison officer Christopher Payne says he saw a teary-eyed Ms Higgins walking past his office early in the week after a reported security incident at Parliament House on Saturday, March 23, 2019.
He told a Federal Court defamation trial on Monday the junior media adviser spoke of waking up on a couch in the office of her then-boss, Senator Linda Reynolds, to find fellow staffer Mr Lehrmann on top of her.
"I said, 'Did he rape you?'," Mr Payne said.
"Her response was, 'I could not have consented. It would have been like f---ing a log'."
These "confronting" words by a young woman in tears in his office stuck with him, he added.
Mr Payne told Justice Michael Lee he was called into the office of Senator Reynolds' acting chief of staff Fiona Brown days after Ms Higgins was allegedly raped.
"You're never going to believe this," Ms Brown allegedly said to Mr Payne of the "security incident".
In that discussion, Ms Brown said Ms Higgins had been found in a "state of undress" in Senator Reynolds' office and that Mr Lehrmann had been fired.
First meeting with police
Earlier on Monday, federal agents Rebecca Cleaves and Katie Thelning gave evidence about a meeting they had with Ms Higgins on April 1, 2019 in the basement of Parliament House.
It was the first time Ms Higgins had gone to the police regarding the rape claim.
In her notes, Ms Cleaves wrote that Ms Higgins described waking up to find Mr Lehrmann on top of her and saying "no" or "don't".
She reported passing out afterwards and waking up confused to find him gone but with the smell of sex still lingering in the air.
She told police she had vomit stains on her dress and she used Senator Reynolds' deodorant before borrowing a jacket from the goodwill box in the office and leaving Parliament House.
Ms Higgins said she had later gone to work and acted cordially with Mr Lehrmann, Ms Thelning said.
"I put what happened away so it wouldn't be a narrative to my life's story," Ms Higgins purportedly told the federal agents.
"I am quite good at doing this."
The trial has run for over a week and a half and is expected to go into the final week before Christmas, the court heard on Monday.
- 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
- National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028
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- Lehrmann accepts he lied in television interview
- 'Defriended': Lehrmann 'booted out of group chats after allegations aired