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.

Kathy Connell 

When did you first work for the ALP and what was your role?

2004 and I was still fresh to the Big Smoke and working on secondment in NSW Health. Fortune smiled and when I picked up the phone one day I was invited by Health Minister Craig Knowles office to come in for a short back-fill in their media team. I was sold from the very first team meeting, and eventually came back to join on a permanent basis. 

 

What did you go onto do after that?

I cycled through a number of Ministerial offices up to 2011 as a media advisor, Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff. Each role, each team, each Minister, each department was an incredible learning experience. Some experiences were uplifting, some were scarifying but I wouldn’t swap any of them.

 

Since 2011, I’ve been able to return back to the central west of NSW into a role I absolutely love and which allows me to put the skills, resilience and moxy I developed during those years to good work. I miss the people, but Sydney in your rear vision mirror can be a magical sight.  Do not underestimate the rewards and opportunities offered outside of the Sydney basin.  

What did you find most rewarding career-wise about working for the ALP?

Opportunities. To contribute, to learn, to make a difference, to have variety, to grow, to be appreciated, to work hard, to be part of a team, to stand up for myself and what matters to me, to develop a colourful vocabulary, to have my eyes opened, to go home at the end of the day (or most likely sometime during the night) knowing I did my best and could be proud of it.  

What is a highlight of your time as a staffer?

Working with incredible people. Not just my fellow staffers (though some of them are chosen family) and Ministers, but also so many of the departmental officers, frontline workers, community members and advocates I had the privilege to come into contact with.

 

To misquote Florence Scovel – every person is your teacher. ​

What are you doing now?

I head up a small communications team doing big things in a regional Local Health District. It’s almost full circle – I’ve come back to the region I’m from, and back to the health sector. But I’ve come back a leader, not just a learner (not to be confused with leaners and lifters, but that’s another discussion).

 

It’s hard to imagine anything that could have enriched or changed me more as a person and as a professional than those years in GMT and Macquarie Street.

What advice would you give to staffers today?

There are seats at the table that belong to you. The ALP needs you. You are going to shape and change it, along with our entire political landscape. Remember where you came from and what your ‘why’ is. Repeat it to yourself and share it widely because your story is important and should be part of our political fabric. Take every opportunity that comes your way because you’ve earned it, and make time to express gratitude.

 

And don’t mix too many metaphors. See above.

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