First past the post: 25 women ready to run for politics

Image of Laura Chipp practicing a speech in the Victorian Parliament with other Pathways to Politics Fellows looking on.
Pathways to Politics Program for Women 2017 Fellow Laura Chipp practicing her preselection speech in Victorian Parliament.

The Fellows of the 2017 Pathways to Politics Program for Women at the University of Melbourne will graduate tonight with the tools and know-how to run for politics, with two Fellows already pre-selected for safe Labor and Liberal seats and one just weeks away from the Northcote by-election as an endorsed candidate for the Reason Party.

After delivering mock pre-selection speeches to a panel of experienced politicians in the Legislative Assembly at Victoria’s Parliament House last week, tonight's final session will include guest speakers federal cabinet Minister Kelly O'Dwyer, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, federal MP Clare O'Neil, and journalist Annabel Crabb.

Academic Coordinator and political scientist for the Melbourne School of Government Dr Andrea Carson said the Pathways to Politics Program enables women to step into politics with the skills and confidence to achieve their political goals.

"For the very first time, our aspiring female politicians have been given a chance to deliver speeches in the Parliament of Victoria and receive feedback from political experts," Dr Carson said.

"These experts included Leader of the Reason Party Fiona Patten MLC, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls and ex-federal Coalition MP Dr Sharman Stone and ALP Victorian frontbencher Natalie Hutchins."

The Pathways program, now in its second year, was initiated by the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, funded by the Trawalla Foundation and delivered by the Melbourne School of Government at the University of Melbourne.

Since the program’s inception last year, eight out of 49 Fellows (16 per cent) have so far been elected or pre-selected across all levels of government, and many more have made their first run for pre-selection.

From the 2016 cohort, Susanne Newton and Stephanie Amir were elected as councillors for the City of Darebin, Bridget Vallence has been pre-selected for the safe Liberal seat of Evelyn, while two others, Dr Olivia Ball and Dr Sarah Mansfield, ran as candidates in the federal election and had significant swings towards them.

From this year’s cohort, two Fellows have been pre-selected for safe Labor and Liberal seats, Danielle Kidd for Braddon and Katie Allen for Prahran. Meanwhile Laura Chipp is just weeks away from the Northcote by-election, in which she is standing as an endorsed candidate for the Reason Party.

For some of the 25 Fellows, politics has been a part of family life – Labor political aspirant Katerina Theophanous (daughter of Theo Theophanous), Jessica Lindell (daughter of Jenny Lindell), Ruth McGowan (sister of Cathy McGowan) and Laura Chipp (daughter of Don Chipp).

Ms Chipp, the 32-year-old daughter of the late founder of the Australian Democrats, Don Chipp, said the program’s guest speakers and panellists have offered crucial advice and invaluable insights into what it is actually like during all stages of the political process.

“The program has really helped equip me further to be able to run straight away, in this imminent by-election,” she said.

Ms Chipp says gaining insight into the realities of life as a female politician has been eye opening.

“We hear in the media a lot of the stereotypes of what female politicians ‘should’ be like. It has been really nice and helpful to hear about each woman’s own independent journey, their points of difference and some of the struggles that they have gone through as a female public figure," Ms Chip said.

“It has made me feel really empowered and provided us with a unique opportunity; where women are brought together and can listen to and support each other from across the political spectrum.”