Where are they now?
Since our patron, Elizabeth Reid, became the first Women’s Adviser ever appointed by a Prime Minister in 1973, there have been literally thousands of women employed as staffers of ALP parliamentarians and party offices.
In our ‘Where are they now?’ series, now you can learn what some of these fabulous women have gone on to do in their professional (and personal) lives.
When did you first work for the ALP and what was your role?
My staffer journey began in 1993 when I was asked to ‘help out’ in Brian Howe’s office - for the afternoon. I’m technically still there…
At the time Brian was the Deputy Prime Minister. It was an incredible opportunity for me, learning from scratch and really opening up my world and knowledge of politics. I was so politically naive and couldn’t get my head around the internal politics – a kind of ‘aren’t we all on the same team?’ attitude. I still believe that mind you but I have a better understanding of the machinations!
What did you go onto do after that?
When Brian retired in 1996 I was fortunate that Martin Ferguson asked me to stay on. His actual words were ‘you wanna work for me don’t you?’ We all know the drill – lose your Member or your Minister and your time is up. I never expected to be asked to stay on. As a non-factional person I didn’t have anyone lobbying for me but apparently there were people impressed enough with my work to recommend me.
I remained with Martin right up until he resigned his portfolios, a few months short of retiring. So I figured I’d try something different. The problem was, I had no clue what that looked like!
To occupy myself and keep the wolf from the door, I accepted another gracious offer from a State Member. After a year, my thoughts kept returning to Batman (now Cooper). I missed my patch.
Luck was with me again and I was offered work with David Feeney until his resignation which caused the mighty Batman by-election. I received a call from then Leader, Bill Shorten to be on the campaign team and subsequently Ged Kearney asked me to stay on and work for her. I am fortunate indeed and thank my lucky stars every day.
What did you find most rewarding career-wise about working for the ALP?
This is such a unique job. Before coming to this role I was a law clerk which required a small skill set. After all this time it still blows my mind thinking of the range of duties, from the many campaigning tasks to serious lobbying for change within community and to government, actually making change for the better. There is no better feeling than knowing you made a difference to a not-for-profit or a person’s life, particularly when they feel at the end of the road.
What is a highlight of your time as a staffer?
So many wonderful moments. Meeting incredible people - Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Julia of course; organising events, both serious and fun. This included watching PJK riff on John Howard (hilarious) and receiving a kiss from Gough and telling him I’d never wash again (also hilarious)! But perhaps winning the Batman by-election against all odds has to be the most significant moment you can have as an Electorate Officer. It was tough and scary!
What are you doing now?
Same, same but different! Always a new challenge – particularly in the year of COVID. It’s given us an opportunity to deepen our connections with community and provide critical assistance to so many when they thought no-one was listening. It’s been humbling and made me even prouder of the work we do.
What advice would you give to staffers today?
Use your voice, your opinion matters. Be creative and always be on the lookout for the opportunity to connect with local communities and be the connector.
If you’re an EO, never forget your community and fight for them.
If you’re an adviser, never forget the electorate.