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.

Ashlee Kearney 

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

I landed myself an opportunity in February 2017 to volunteer for Linda Burney for 4 sitting weeks in her Parliament House office in Canberra. I was living in Canberra at the time doing postgraduate studies in Public Policy at ANU and was keen to gain experience in a political office. 

 

Once I completed the 4 sitting weeks, Linda explained that there weren’t any vacancies til the new financial year and that I would have a role as a Policy Advisor in July.  I was approached by Senator Patrick Dodson to work in his Canberra office as a Policy Advisor in the meantime, that contract was extended through to 2018. I did spend a period working for Linda on sitting weeks and Patrick on non-sitting weeks. 


I also lived in Broome, WA for 7 months in 2018 based in Patrick’s electorate office and flying to Canberra with him for sitting weeks.

 

What did you go onto do after that?

 I was getting homesick for Sydney and took on a role in the private sector.

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

I felt  enormous pride being one of the very few First Nations staffers working for the Federal Labor Caucus - it was rare to see people who looked like me walking the halls of Parliament as staffers. I found it really important to be approachable and a team player to support others to understand the importance of Indigenous Affairs by offering advice, helping out and answering  questions. I felt that my presence and contribution challenged the ideas of diversity within the party and within the Parliament House. 

 

The most rewarding and long lasting impact I have is gaining a deeper insight into what happens behind the scenes in  Parliament and in political party business.
 

I always have been extremely passionate about Indigenous Affairs and continue to advocate for First Nations communities. I know that to make systemic change you must know the system you want to change.

What is a highlight of your time as a staffer?

I have many highlights but one that is especially significant is staffing for Pat Dodson when the Marriage Equality bill passed in the Senate and weeks later staffing for Linda Burney while the bill passed in the House of Reps. To witness the full run of the parliamentary and democratic process and to see equality win made such a huge impact not to mention the celebrations that continued into the evening. 

Understanding what went into this outcome helped me understand what needs to happen for other groups fighting for equality like First Nations communities.

What are you doing now?

I am the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN)

FPDN is the only national peak organisation advocating for First Nations people with disability and their families.

What advice would you give to staffers today?

Make work/life balance a top priority.

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