I didn’t know Fiona Richardson MP before I went to work for her.
A respected and at times feared factional warrior from the Victorian Right, Fiona’s reputation as a fierce political operative preceded her. I understood the kind of tenacity and toughness it took to mix it with the faceless men of the ALP. Fiona had not only survived in that culture she had thrived. She’d even married into it, forming a formidable partnership with former Victorian ALP State Secretary Stephen Newnham.
A couple of days before taking a job as her Senior Advisor in the new Andrews Government, I bumped into Labor mates at the soccer who were shocked when I said I was going into her Ministerial Office.
“Tanja, she’s mad! Way too intense…..You’re too nice to work for her…”
At the same time I would later find out that Fiona was being told similar things. About me. "You can't employ her. She's a feminazi. She's in the Left!"
The more people warned us away; the more we gravitated to each other. Bad-ass bitches, she loved freaking people out whenever we strode together - Left/Right - on a mission.
She brought me in for gender and legal expertise to help manage her Women and Family Violence Prevention portfolios. I stayed and became her Chief because we found in each other a kindred spirit.
It’s one thing to be a Women’s Minister; yet another to invest in women while doing it. Fiona built an all woman Ministerial Office - a coven of witches - all deeply loyal to her. A passionate, pro-choice feminist, unafraid to speak her mind, I focussed on supporting her to be the best leader she could be.