Applications open for 2020 Pathways to Politics Program for Women

Two female students in Parliament
Ecehan G├╝lbayrak (L) and Crystal Cartwright (R), members of the 2019 Pathways to Politics Program for Women cohort. Image: Ella Mitchell

The University of Melbourne’s prestigious Pathways to Politics Program for Women is now open to female graduates from all Victorian universities.

In its fifth year, the non-partisan program is a partnership between the Melbourne School of Government, the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the Trawalla Foundation. It aims to equip female graduates from a diverse range of industries, backgrounds and interests with the skills, confidence and networks to seek elected office at Federal, State and Local level.

Applications for the 2020 program have now opened.

Professor Duncan Maskell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, said the University is delighted to extend the program to female graduates from all Victorian universities for the first time.

“It has been wonderful to see the program’s practical outcomes and the positive impact it’s had on the conversation around representation of women in Parliament. This year we are very pleased to invite female graduates from across Victoria to apply for this valuable opportunity,” Professor Maskell said.

The program is modelled on Harvard University’s ‘From Harvard Square to the Oval Office’ program and made possible by a donation to the University of Melbourne from the Trawalla Foundation, established by the Schwartz family.

Carol Schwartz, chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the Trawalla Foundation, said the program has gone from strength to strength since its inception, with many former participants now in political roles across Australia.

“I strongly believe that our representative Parliament should look like us, therefore ideally it should have 50 percent men and 50 percent women. Women experience and interact with the world differently to men. That experience and perspective shapes the way a person contributes to leadership. Equal representation would shape culture, decision-making, collaboration, and ultimately reflect community issues in a more fulsome way,” Ms Schwartz said.

“As Chair of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the Trawalla Foundation I am very proud to support this non-partisan program in partnership with the University of Melbourne. From launching the pilot program in 2015 to the program’s expansion today, it is deeply gratifying to see its impact supporting women who aspire to ascend into political leadership and better support their community.”

The program has already supported almost 100 participants to run for office and at least seven be elected. Three program alumni — Juliana Addison, Kat Theophanous and Bridget Vallence — were elected at the 2018 Victorian State election. Another alum, Katie Allen, was elected to Federal Parliament in 2019.

Others have been elected to local government, including Crs Stephanie Amir, Sarah Mansfield and Susanne Newton.

Juliana Addison, who was a member of the 2017 cohort, said the program armed her with the skills to run for office.

“One of the greatest benefits of the Pathways to Politics Program is being forewarned about the preselection process and an election campaign, because being prepared and skilled up is half of the victory,” Ms Addison said.

“It made such a difference to have incredible women from across the political spectrum encouraging and supporting me all the way with skills, development and knowledge. This program is crucial – more women in Parliament better reflects our community’s values and experiences.”

The 2020 program – which will have 30 participants – will feature presentations and workshops from leading political and public figures, including the Hon Jenny Macklin, Peta Credlin, Dr Samantha Ratnam, Annabel Crabb, Kelly O’Dwyer and Cathy McGowan.

Applications for the 2020 cohort are now open and close on 1 April. The program will run from 25 July to 5 November 2020.

Prospective applicants can view the eligibility requirements and apply for the program on the Melbourne School of Government’s website.