Sarah Hanson-Young: "This week, I learned there are still people who don't accept working mums."

“Go drown yourself. Then your kid might stand a chance.” Um, excuse me? Who writes this stuff? Grumpy old men, that’s who.

This is just one of the messages I’ve received this week after an error-riddled story surfaced in The Australian, reporting that I took my daughter on a work trip last year.

Of course the conservative old blokes were grumpier than usual after the newspaper dressed the two days full of meetings and consultations over the proposed oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight as a “whale watching tour”.

Wrong. There was no “tour”, no “cruise” or any “boats” at all. But hey, why let facts get in the way of good story. Never mind that I was in my electorate hearing the concerns of the community.

I met with indigenous groups, tourism and fisheries operators and the local Council. Ramping up the community’s campaign to save the Bight from oil drilling, I went to see for myself what impact an oil spill, like what has sadly occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, would have on the local environment and the sensitive whale sanctuary.

I was there to do my job, a politician listening to the concerns of the community.

And I also happened to take my daughter, who was nine at the time and needed to be with her mother.

This week, the grumps were in overdrive. I’ve had online trolls demand I ‘get back in the kitchen’, wish for my violent death, call me a moll, a slut and a fat pig.

And it’s not just online cowards, we also had to call the Australian Federal Police to the office after threats were made to my staff from callers who have a problem with me as a working mother.

I’ve had media commentators accuse me of being a bad parent for taking my child to work when she needed her mum, or playing the ‘single mother card’. But as any single mother knows, there is no ‘card’ to play. It is a harsh reality for working women everywhere that at some time in your career those roles are going to intertwine.

“You stupid slag whore…go hang yourself.” Such vitriol, such violent abuse, all because I dared to be both a politician and a mum. This wasn’t the first time, I’ve become used to the unhinged attacks that come from mostly men about my actions as an elected Senator, and it won’t be the last.

I’ve been in the Senate for almost as long as I’ve been a mum. I understand very well the privileged position I am in.

Every politician in the federal parliament has access to a family travel budget, and for someone who travels a lot for work, whether it be to Canberra or around my home state of South Australia, I am grateful that it exists. I don’t take it for granted. But for the past week, through the fog of Facebook and Twitter trolls, many people have said to me, ‘If you were a man, taking your daughter to work with you would be celebrated’.


If we are to have a truly representative democracy, our parliament needs to be the mirror to society – and that means, having working mothers as elected members. And in doing so, working mothers out in the community have a lawmaker in their corner.

When Greens supporters back me to represent them in the parliament they do so knowing I’ll stand up for our shared values of fighting to protect our environment and for equality in our society.

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One thing I’ve learned from this week, is that there are some dark corners of society that are unwilling to accept that women can work and be a mother at the same time.

To these people – most of whom are grumpy old white men – a woman has no right to work and care for her child at the same time, even when there are mechanisms in place to support it.

If the family travel budget was taken away so be it – but it exposes the idea of a family-friendly parliament as nothing more than lip service.

The fact is, the world is changing. We see more young parents striving for an equal share of bread-winning and parenting duties. For single parents, having a strong support network around you is vital, and unfortunately for too many, it sometimes means women are excluded from the workforce.

I won’t back down in my fight to normalise women in the workforce. I won’t let misogynists hiding behind their keyboards, or their mastheads, stop me in standing up for other single parents, those that struggle every day to get the balance right.

If the snowflakes are so vehemently against having a working mother in the parliament, then it exposes a deeply disturbing fact of our society that too many still think a woman’s role is as a mother above all else.

Being a mother is one of the greatest roles I get to play, but I’m also passionate about standing up for people in our society striving for equality and acceptance, while standing up for our precious environment.

I won’t let the haters in the Murdoch press, the abusive men ringing my office, or the trolls on social media get me down. I just hope they don’t speak to their own mothers, wives or daughters the way they do to me.