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.

Audrey Maag

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

I first worked for the ALP in 2009. I started as an assistant advisor to Mark Arbib in the Employment Participation portfolio, then as an advisor on Indigenous Economic Development, then Small Business following changes in portfolio.

 

What did you go onto do after that?

I did a short stint co-writing and editing the Indigenous Higher Education Strategy. By that stage I was doing a Master of International Security with a focus on Health Security and decided I wanted to work on health policy. I took a job as the Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and from there went to work at the NSW Ministry of Health managing tobacco control policy, regulation and enforcement. I was there for 5 years then took a 12-month secondment at the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet to work on the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Following that I joined the Strategy and Policy Team in the Office of the Secretary at the then Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (now Department of Customer Service) to work on a range of cross-cluster and Government policy and legislation. 

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

 

I was pretty green when I joined Mark's office. I learned so much about politics, policy and media from my wonderful and talented colleagues including our fearless Chief of Staff, Bridget Whelan. I also really enjoyed learning about Cabinet and Parliamentary processes and working with some wonderful people in the public service - I realised then that the public service was probably the place for me. I also started to learn how to hold my own in a room of senior people (mostly men), although this is something I am still working on many years later! 

What is a highlight of your time as a staffer?

I was really proud to be involved in the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (now called Supply Nation) and lead work on the Indigenous Procurement Policy which supports Commonwealth Government purchasing from Indigenous suppliers. I met many wonderful colleagues and friends in Mark's office, including my husband! The day that stands out most for me was when Julia Gillard became PM. There was so much joy and optimism in the building. The aftermath of that taught me how important it is for women to support each other and I try to do that with every opportunity that arises. 

What are you doing now?

My normal role is Director Project Delivery and Change at Service NSW within the NSW Department of Customer Service. I look after a team of 30 and a range of project streams including Transport projects, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Projects, delivery of new Service Centres, internal IT and Security projects and the Change Team. I have however temporarily moved to the Digital Licensing portfolio and look after projects including the Digital Driver License and Digital Trade Licences. It is exciting and faced paced work and I am enjoying it, although my heart will always be in policy. 

What advice would you give to ALP women staffers?

  • Be strategic about what you do and plan for your next career steps. When I left Mark's office, I thought I would easily find a senior-ish role because I had worked as a staffer, but people outside of politics don't always see the value of that role. As I moved into different roles post-politics and made my way up the ladder, I learned how important it is to be strategic about your career choices - figure out where you want to be in 1, 5 and 10 years and take roles that will build skills and visibility to get you there. ​

  • As we've all seen throughout our careers and recently in the media, there is a LONG way to go in terms of how women are treated by men in politics. So, it is important to be kind and support each other no matter what. There is strength in numbers!! 

  • Also, be respectful and kind to the public service. As a staffer I often witnessed a lack of respect for the public service and as a public servant I have been on the receiving end of poor staffer behaviour. In addition to its being unacceptable, no public servant is going to go out of their way to help a staffer who treats them without respect! 

  • You'll never get such a great opportunity to make an impact on policy and the wicked social problems that exist in this country. Use your power wisely!

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