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?
My first paid job with the ALP was working for the Victorian Minister for Manufacturing and Export, Tim Holding MP in the Bracks Brumby era.
What did you go onto do after that?
A lot of different portfolios: police and corrections, finance and water. Working for Bracks and then briefly for Brumby before running away (metaphorically) to Canberra where I worked for Brendan O’Connor in Employment Services, Home Affairs, Housing, Homelessness, Small Business, Immigration, Education and Training. A stint as the ACTU’s political director. Back into Opposition with Brendan (Shadow IR), then into Bill Shorten’s Office, back out into the world as a not-for-profit CEO and now… back at the ACTU.
What did you find most rewarding career-wise about working for the ALP?
Check out those opportunities! I love influencing a quality outcome. I know it sounds trite – particularly as I inch ever closer to 50. But I’m in this line of work to make the world a better place. Working for the ALP has made me understand just how complicated this simple idea is. Not least of all that what I think makes the world a better place isn’t necessarily the same thing someone else thinks makes the world a better place. I also like a cracking good argument in furtherance of equitable and societally desirable outcomes.
What is a highlight of your time as a staffer?
Seeing a policy survive election cycles (hello New Jobs Tax Cut). Seeing a policy deliver real outcomes (in my case it was an OECD report about my employment services which said we’d doubled the employment outcomes for the most disadvantaged job seekers). Working with super smart people who shared my values (something I really only appreciated when I had to go back into the real world). The longstanding relationships you form with people when you’re working under pressure. Having the Prime Minister consider your argument before making a decision. And then the slightly odd travel experiences. Eating Reindeer in Finland. A police escort to visit Pondicherry. Watching the Minister play a soccer game with kids in remote Solomon Islands. In the last few years, being able to mentor younger women in the Opposition (they might not think it was a highlight though, to be clear 😊).
What are you doing now?
I’m doing my bit to support the excellent elected officials of the ACTU deliver for working people and the Australian Trade Union movement. I’m the ACTU’s Executive Officer. It’s kind of like the Chief of Staff to the National Secretary (Sally McManus), and the operating environment is a bit like politics and nothing like politics, all at the same time.
What advice would you give to ALP women staffers?
Since you asked… Join your union. Understand where we come from. Remember why you came here. Wear flat shoes (look, wear heels if you want to – see next bit of advice). Be yourself and live with the consequences of that. Even when people tell you they don’t like it. Or that you don’t do it that way. Look out for people who are trying to help develop you (love you Ligeti) and take all their advice (even if some of it you take by doing the complete opposite). When someone offers you help, support or advice (even when you’ve both been drinking), take it. Make the call. Do the things that are hard and you’re not sure if you can (that’s how you learn). Don’t assume that just because you find something easy, it is – it’s probably your competitive advantage. Ask a lot of questions – but only after you’ve done your research. Don’t assume that just because it’s always been that way, it should be that way in the future – but do your best to find out what hasn’t worked before. Say what you think with the confidence of a mediocre white male.