Supporting women into politics
As part of the program, the women attend workshops led by presenters from within the political sphere on all aspects of a political career. Past presenters have included former Governor General Quentin Bryce, Former Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Peta Credlin, Minister Kelly O’Dwyer, Senator Penny Wong, journalist Leigh Sales and former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.
"Program participants will learn from members of parliament, campaign strategists, advisors, consultants and elected officials and we anticipate that graduates of the US and Australian programs will form part of an international network of women in office," says Professor Helen Sullivan, former director of the Melbourne School of Government.
The pioneering program is modelled on the ‘From Harvard Square to the Oval Office’ program at the Harvard Kennedy School and is made possible through funding from the Trawalla Foundation, chaired by philanthropist and business woman Carol Schwartz.
"Currently women occupy fewer than 30 per cent of Australian parliamentary positions, which is considerably lower than our international counterparts,” Ms Schwartz says. “It is a privilege to contribute to the advancement of women in political life.”
Women from last year’s program have already gone on to be elected in local government elections (Stephanie Amir and Susanne Newton to Darebin Council) and preselected for the next state election (Bridget Vallence by the Liberal party in the seat of Evelyn). Other participants also had success but despite large swings, fell short of election.
Stephanie Amir attributes great personal growth to her participation in last year’s program.
“What I didn’t expect though was the extent to which the program helped me take myself seriously as a politician. Growing up, most politicians I’d see on TV were men in suits who I couldn’t relate to, but by the end of the program I’d learnt from many women MPs and shifted the way I saw myself to become more confident that I could do it too.
“I gained unique insights into life as a politician and met wonderful women from diverse sectors and backgrounds. It was so interesting to ‘peek behind the curtain’ of politics to get a glimpse inside different political parties and campaigns.”
Story by Anna Maddison