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Georgia Betros's Bridget Whelan Scholarship acceptance speech

I would first like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I am on today here in Brisbane – the Turrbul and Jagera people. I’d like to pay my respects to their elders, past present and emerging, and extend that respect to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people on the zoom today.

 

Of course, I want to pay tribute to the late Bridget Whelan, and I want to thank her family and friends. It is a true privilege to receive a scholarship in her name and I am humbled by her contribution to our party.

Female staffers have been one of the most talked about groups of people this year. Serious questions have been asked about our experiences. The nation has come to realise that many women aren’t safe in their workplace, even if that workplace is the parliament house of Australia.

Questions around the role of women, the treatment of women and opportunities for women, particularly non-white women, are what motive me in politics, and what ultimately led me towards the Labor party -  the party of affirmative action.

And I am grateful to have a leader who embodies that ethos. Anthony Albanese’s background and lived experience has made him a considerate, caring and authentic leader. 

I am proud to be a member of a party that acknowledges inequality, and rather than seeking to naturalise that inequality, takes actual steps to change it.

But if there’s anything I have learnt in politics; change doesn’t happen by accident.

It takes deliberate, repetitive, and continued efforts by many.

 

I hope to contribute to those efforts through the activities I will fund with this scholarship.

I will use part of the scholarship to participate in the Women in Leadership course offered at the University of New South Wales business school.

 

This course is about navigating the enduring challenges that exist for women in the workplace, whether that be dealing with unconscious bias or maximising confidence. I chose this course for its one-on-one support and its focus on problem solving.

 

I will also use the scholarship to research ways to recruit, mentor and provide support for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, to either maintain their staffing roles or become staffers.  

 

I will draw on existing networks and platforms, including the wonderful multicultural staffers network founded by some of my colleagues, and the Queensland Multicultural Women’s network.

 

I intend to interview my counterparts in the Democrats, UK Labour and New Zealand Labour, to identify ways in which they have increased the number of women of colour among their staffing ranks.

 

Lessons learned from these interviews will inform the establishment of a network of CALD female staffers or potential staffers in Queensland.

As a Queenslander, our multicultural experiences can be quite different from that of the Sydney- or Melbourne-sider. And regional and rural experiences are different yet again.

We have incredible diversity in Queensland, particularly in the regions, but we are also home to the likes of Pauline Hanson and other racist movements.

I think that these multicultural experiences ought to be reflected in our political systems, and that includes the staffing corps.   

I hope that this network could expand beyond Queensland but importantly, I hope it will provide opportunities for people not typically in the party system, because we cannot all rely on the good fortune of meeting your boss at a book launch and them giving you a job. Thank you to my wonderful boss Terri Butler for always walking her talk, giving people opportunities, and being such a great mentor.

So thank you for the honour of receiving this award today. I hope this work will go some way to strengthening our movement.

 

Thanks to Jenny McAllister and Terri for being my referees and to Anne Aly and Ash Wone for being additional contacts.

 

Thank you again to Bridget Whelan’s family and friends, to Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Liberty and Maurice Blackburn, the Senators and Members who donated, and of course the executive team at the Elizabeth Reid Network.

Georgia Betros - winner of the 2021 scholarship