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?
Beginning of 2006 - working for Senator Chris Evans, who was then Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Family and Community Affairs and Indigenous Affairs. I was an advisor.
What did you go onto do after that?
I worked for Chris for a bit under 12 months, having come from the Parliamentary Library working across a range of social policy areas - mostly Indigenous affairs and health. At the end of 2006 Kevin became leader and appointed Nicola Roxon as Shadow Minister for Health. She asked Chris if she could borrow me “for a few days” … the rest is history. I ended up staying with Nicola for the wild ride that was 2007 and the “Kevin07” campaign, and became her Chief of Staff for the 4 years she was Health Minister.
What did you find most rewarding career-wise about working for the ALP?
The ability to make a difference - having a role in shaping policies that profoundly impact people’s lives for the better, in some cases for years and decades to come. It is the most incredible privilege and makes all the hard work, long hours and the rest of the less pleasant things about being a staffer worth it.
What is a highlight of your time as a staffer?
Being involved in Labor’s world first tobacco plain packaging legislation - what an extraordinary experience. I remember being in the room with then Prime Minister Rudd when Nicola convinced him to go for it, to helping to shepherd the legislation through the (by then hung) Parliament, to the moment we heard that it had passed, and then being in Nicola’s office when the first writs arrived in the series of legal challenges from the tobacco industry which followed (all of which were won by the Government). I still pinch myself that I had the privilege of being involved in something so big - and which has made a real difference to public health. Australians are smoking less as a result of the legislation and other tobacco control policies Labor introduced at the same time - meaning less people will get sick and die of horrible things like lung cancer in the future. And the domino effect has been amazing - at last count around 20 other countries have followed Australia’s lead.
What are you doing now?
Since 2012 (I left Nicola’s office when she became Attorney-General in late 2011) I have been working for the World Health Organization (WHO) - the first four years in China working on tobacco control, and for the last 5 years in the Asia Pacific regional headquarters in Manila, as Chief of Staff to the Regional Director (the big boss of WHO in the Region) and Director of Communications and Partnerships. So, I’ve been pretty in the thick of it during the COVID-19 pandemic which has been tough but an extraordinary experience.
What advice would you give to ALP women staffers?
Grab opportunities that come your way, always trust your gut, and no matter how busy or important you are, always be kind! One of the nicest compliments I ever received when I was Nicola’s Chief of Staff was when someone told me that for such a busy person, I was one of the nicest people they’d ever met. During my time as a staffer and especially as a Chief of Staff I really tried not to buy into the bully-boy culture that I think people think is expected of a senior staffer, and that was always the tone I tried to set in our office as well. And I think it paid off - we always had really good relationships with the bureaucrats and stakeholders, many of which I still maintain today despite it being many years since I have worked in Canberra.