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?
I started work for the NSW Government in 2005 as a media adviser to David Campbell, who was Minister for a range of portfolios including State and Regional Development, Small Business, Water Utilities and Police. After the 2007 election I went on to work for Premier Morris Iemma as a Senior Media Adviser, a role I held until he resigned.
What did you go onto do after that?
After a very brief stint in PR (don’t take the first job that comes along after an unexpected reshuffle/redundancy!) I went to work for the Federal Government in 2009 as Senior Media Adviser/Deputy Chief of Staff and then COS to Mark Arbib, who had portfolios including Sport, Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Social Housing and Homelessness, and Assistant Treasurer.
After leaving Government when Mark resigned in 2012, I was appointed General Manager of Government Relations and Communications for the Asian Cup football tournament in Australia in 2015.
What did you find most rewarding career-wise about working for the ALP?
I didn’t follow the same path into politics as many – I was a journalist who had never been to a party meeting or been involved in Young Labor and had stayed non-partisan. While I’d always voted Labor, I wasn’t sure working in politics was for me, but was given the really good advice that if you believe in the cause and you like the Minister then go for it. I learnt so many new skills – particularly in crisis and issues management and how to work with people with different views to achieve a compromise. And I made many life-long friends.
What is a highlight of your time as a staffer?
I was lucky enough to meet some inspiring people and to be on hand at some historic events, like the apology to the Stolen Generation. Seeing the way policies can have a life-changing impact on people’s lives was the most rewarding thing. Working for the Federal Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness took us to many shelters and housing projects and I still remember the man who had worked so hard and gotten himself sober and had a house for the first time after living on the streets. He hugged the Minister and cried because he now had a job and a home because of programs we’d funded.
What are you doing now?
I’m currently the Director of Brand and Communication for Australian NGO The Fred Hollows Foundation. The Foundation works in more than 25 countries restoring sight to the needlessly blind and my role is to oversee the global team which is responsible for telling Fred Hollows’ inspiring and life-changing stories and reporting back to donors about how their money is used.
I’ve just celebrated five years with The Foundation and the highlight has been seeing our work in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, Nepal, India, Bhutan and China.
I suspect some of my former Ministers would be laughing because after years of telling them how to do interviews I’m now sometimes in the hot seat – and it looks easier from the other side of the camera!
What advice would you give to staffers today?
Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. When you’re in the daily cut and thrust of politics it’s hard to remember most people aren’t listening to everything the media says. Try not to get bogged down in the daily news cycle (I know, easier said than done, but no one is watching Sky News!) Think about the long-term impact you’re having. And try to have the self-confidence of your male counterparts. Put yourself forward for opportunities and help each other. We don’t just need more women in Parliament, we need more great women staffers who drive policies that make life better for Australians.