opinion

"In Kate Ellis, we are losing so much more than just a politician."

As a politically engaged working woman planning on having kids of my own in the next few years, the news that Kate Ellis is planning to retire from politics at the next federal election hit me hard.

Because in Kate Ellis, I came closer than ever to having myself represented in parliament.

She is an intelligent, hard-working woman who is not afraid to take on the old boys club mentality and prove she is worthy of a seat at the table. She cares about policies that will shape the future of this country but also knows when to admit that her party is not perfect.

Kate Ellis. Source: Twitter.

Entering the parliament at 26 (the youngest female politician ever elected at a federal level in Australia), she grew up in front of the nation; in front of a generation of women wondering if they could one day be up there at the top of our chosen fields like she was.

On that national stage, we saw Kate Ellis become a minister, get married, appear on Q&A countless times, become a mum, enact significant policy changes and fight for a better future.

We saw a woman transition from her 20s to her 30s.

And, alongside other ministers who broke the traditional white-over-50s-male-politician mould, we finally began to see an accurate picture of today's society looking back at us.

The problem is, though, because she did it all publicly she made it seem possible. But it's clearly not.

For the most part, the average federal politician will spend 20 weeks away from their home each year, with many weeknights and weekends on top of that reserved for public events. Often, they'll spend as many hours of their year in planes as they will on the ground.

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Listen: Kate Ellis talks to Mamamia about the day in the life of a politician and a new mum. Post continues... 

As anyone who has children or is thinking of having children knows, that life and the life of a child aren't going to mix — at least, not if you actually want to be present and attend the odd school assembly.

For the older generation of politicians who left the day-to-day raising of children to their wives, missing those things might not have been a big deal. But society is changing and dads want to be around for those moments just as much as mums do now. We know this because Joe Hockey frequently spoke about it at length.

Still, despite the frank and honest admissions of our politicians, federal parliament continues to change little and simply look on as good representatives who also happen to be mothers leave.

Kate Ellis. Source: Getty.

Natasha Stott-Despoja did it. Kate Ellis is doing it, and we'll surely see it again in the future unless something changes.

The truth is, we need people like Ellis there. Because after all, if politics isn't reflecting the society of which it governs, you have to wonder, what the bloody hell is it doing?

I wholeheartedly support and understand Ellis' decision. But I do wonder just how long we'll have to wait to see another talented woman in her 20s elected to parliament. More than anything, I wonder how disheartening it will be for other women out there to have it reiterated to them, once again, that being a working mother is still just as hard it as ever was.

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