Article: Women – your parliament needs you!

Article published in Her Canberra and written by Emma Macdonald.
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MARGARET THATCHER ONCE STATED: IF YOU WANT SOMETHING SAID, ASK A MAN: IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE ASK A WOMAN.

But when it comes to shaping the political landscape, traditionally women have either shied away—or been excluded from—equal parliamentary representation.

Women for Election Australia (WFEA) is a non-partisan organisation aimed at educating and encouraging more women to take a role in politics across the country at local, state and federal level, and is holding its first workshop in Canberra on Tuesday 26 November.

Keynote speakers at the event include Federal Senators Jane Hume and Sarah Hanson-Young.

WFEA chief executive Licia Heath says more women than ever are seeking information on how to get involved in the political process.

“People are frustrated by our current political landscape and talk about politicians being out of step with their day-to-day lives. We’re seeing women, in particular, mobilising to shake up the status quo, with greater numbers of women attending our events and signing up for our newsletters than ever before.”

Licia Heath.

While women are currently very under-represented in our parliaments, Licia says they made excellent local representatives in their everyday lives—not realising they could turn these skills into a political career that could impact on the country.

“When you look at communities, you see women doing leadership roles, particularly in rural and regional Australia. Women are already often doing nine-tenths of what a good local representative should be doing, such as holding forums, sharing information and checking in on people. It keeps them very busy and they are doing it for free. We want to help them do it in office.”

 A former Independent candidate in the high-profile Wentworth by-election in October 2018, Licia made the decision to step out of her comfort zone and run after a successful career in finance and asset management. She said knowledge was key in seeking office at any level.

The workshop will deliver a highly practical and interactive program that provides participants with the tools and techniques to get elected.

It is tailored not only to meet the very specific challenges that women face but also to develop the knowledge and skills needed to run for an election or manage a campaign. Numbers are limited to only 50 to ensure attendees get the most out of the workshop.

 “We encourage all women, especially those from culturally diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, to come along to our event at ANU and find out what it takes to run for office or work on a campaign.

The program is full of insights from experts who’ve run campaigns, been elected, fronted the media and produced policy—and they’re ready to share their skills and experience with our attendees,” says Licia.

She added that another benefit of the workshop was the opportunity to connect with women who are already working in politics to get a more rounded view of life in public office.

At the last federal election, WFEA ran a ‘Vote for a Woman’ campaign, given the extensive research showing that unconscious bias can extend to the ballot box where many voters don’t even notice a woman’s name on the ballot.

While WFEA was seeking to get more women to run, it was also seeking to encourage the electorate to vote for them.

“We hear a lot of negative stories around the experiences of women in politics, which can overshadow the achievements and the good you can do as an elected member. Hearing directly from women like Jane and Sarah about their political journeys, what drives them and what they’ve been able to accomplish, helps to provide a more balanced perspective for women who might be aspiring to a political career themselves,” says Licia.

“This is a critical first step if we are to encourage more women to put themselves forward and ensure we achieve equal representation and diversity in our parliaments.”

the essentials

What: Women for Election Australia Canberra EQUIP Forum
When: Tuesday 26 November from 7.30 am–5 pm
Where: Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU
Cost: $120 or $60 concession.
To purchase tickets or find out more, visit wfea.org.au

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