opinion

"Australian politics' #metoo moment is here. And we should be delighted."

The past week has been one of the most mentally exhausting and spiritually taxing weeks in Australian politics.

From Julia Banks MP’s defection to the cross bench to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s impassioned speech, it was evident that women in our National parliament have put their foot down, red bejewelled shoe and all, and taken a stance against disrespect.

While the focus was mostly on former Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop MP’s gorgeous red shoes that she donated to the Museum of Australian Democracy, Julie Banks MP and Senator Hanson-Young, groups of young women took over parliamentary offices in a number of initiatives aimed at mentoring young women to pursue careers in parliament.

To name a few, Jasiri Australia’s “Girls Takeover Parliament” initiative is a “bipartisan, innovative program that pairs young women and girls with politicians to ensure their voices and opinions are heard. It is a program on a mission to show the world the benefits of unleashing girls’ potential and inspire more women and girls to enter politics.”

Jasiri CEO Caitlin Figueirdo tweeted “This is what we want the future of Australian politics to look like! A safe & inclusive place for all women & girls to be actively involved in every party. Thank you to the incredible politicians for being mentors to our @JasiriAustralia #GirlsTakeoverParliament Ambassadors.

Country to Canberra, is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to empower young rural women to reach their leadership potential by providing education, leadership and mentorship opportunities to regional, rural and remote teenage girls. “We are a leading voice for young women and are committed to strengthening rural communities into the future.”

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Hanna Wandel CEO of Country to Canberra, shared a photograph of this year’s participants with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The participants were given the opportunity “to ask some tough questions of our PM”.

There’s no denying it, the current state of women in Australian politics isn’t good. But there is a very bright future on the horizon for women in Australian politics.

The key to seeing more women in leadership roles is not just a #metoo movement or a quota system. It is simply respect for all Australian women, regardless of their occupation, marital status, sexuality, race or religion. Australians coming together to respect and empower women to become leaders, whether in communities, corporations or politics, is what is needed most.

I’m a mother of three young children, an overseas born migrant, and a Muslim and I have nominated for Liberal preselection for the federal, House of Representatives seat of Canberra.

I don’t know whether I will be preselected or not, but even getting to this point would have been impossible if I wasn’t enabled by my support network of both women and men.

In a world where ‘imposter syndrome’ is very real, women not only lack the self-belief to just give it a go, they are effectively put off by the antics of the federal parliament. It therefore takes a village of enablers, both men and women to mentor, encourage and nurture.

Richard Di Natale calls for rules to stop sexism in Parliament. Post continues after video…

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My mentor, Elizabeth Lee ACT MLA – Shadow Minister of Education, was the key source of my courage to nominate. My other and equally important mentor, 2GB’s Sydney Live – host Ben Fordham, was equally encouraging, providing me with invaluable advice, support and opportunities.

There are many thousands of women involved in politics, in the background. To bring them to the forefront and provide them with the respect, and opportunity to thrive is up to Australia as a whole. It’s because of individuals like Elizabeth and Ben that I have found the courage to nominate. It will be up to Australia to enable other women through respect, encouragement, support and mentorship.

When asked what she thought about the current state of women in Australian Politics, Elizabeth Lee MLA, who is also the first Korean Australian elected member of parliament in Australia and doesn’t attribute her success to “quotas or slogans”, said “There is no doubt that we could all be doing more to encourage women into politics or other leadership roles. It’s a collective responsibility and it’s not just good for women; it’s good for everyone. Our parliaments should reflect the diversity of the community that we serve and all too often it doesn’t.”

Asked how she got to where she is today, Elizabeth said “I was encouraged and supported (by men and women in my party) when I first raised a timid voice and said, ‘maybe, just maybe, I can do this’.”

A far cry from our National Parliament, the ACT state Parliament lays claim to the first female majority parliament (2016). Elizabeth is part of the first female majority Liberal party room, all achieved without a quota system. Through meritocracy aided by an encouraging and supportive ecosystem.

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I attended a Canberra Liberal’s Women’s council meeting this week where I found the broad range of strong, intelligent opinions being shared refreshing. From women calling for a quota system to women calling for active mentoring and financial support of female candidates. These views and ideas which are going to be shared with the national body were nothing short of brilliant.

It’s fair to say women in Australian politics, particularly in the recent months, from Labor MP Emma Husar to Greens Senator Hanson-Young, Julia Banks MP and Julie Bishop MP, have had it tough. But to reduce the plight and future of women in politics to these events is in itself damaging to women entering politics.

There are many thousands of women involved in Australian politics, in the background. To bring them to the forefront and provide them with the respect, and opportunity to thrive is up to Australia as a whole and it starts with respect for all women.

The current picture of women in politics might be grim but through increasing common respect for women in all walks of life, programs like Jasiri and Country to Canberra, supportive and encouraging mentors like Elizabeth Lee and Ben Fordham, and a pair of stunning, red, statement-shoes, the future of Australian women in politics is magnificent.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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