Momentum is growing for women entering politics across Australia as the non-partisan Pathways to Politics Program for Women opens applications for its 2023 intake.
The award-winning program equips women with the skills, knowledge, confidence and networks to run for elected office and thrive as political leaders. A record 19 alums ran in last November’s Victorian state election.
Six alum across five political parties were successfully elected – Juliana Addison MP, Kat Theophanous MP and Bridget Vallence MP in the Legislative Assembly, and Gaelle Broad MP, Sarah Mansfield MP and Georgie Purcell MP in the Legislative Council.
Pathways to Politics has now seen 28 electoral successes across the political spectrum nationally at local, state and federal levels of government. Of these, 22 are alums of the University of Melbourne program.
After achieving a significant swing in the Liberal-held seat of Aston in the May 2022 Federal election, alum Mary Doyle has been preselected as the Labor candidate for the upcoming Aston by-election. 5 alums of the NSW Pathways program at UNSW Sydney are set to run in the NSW state election this March.
Georgie Purcell MP – the newly elected Animal Justice Party member of the Legislative Council for Northern Victoria – credits Pathways to Politics with giving her the confidence to run for office, and said: “I wouldn’t be embarking on this incredible journey if I didn’t take part in the program.
“Pathways helped me understand what I perceived as weaknesses were actually strengths. More compassion in politics is only a good thing. Through the program, I also learned the power of my story. Importantly, it gave me confidence to take back the narrative on some of my personal experiences holding me back from public life,” Ms Purcell said.
Dr Sarah Mansfield – the newly elected Greens member of the Legislative Council for Western Victoria – said she was able to apply what she learnt through Pathways to Politics while participating in a real-life campaign: “It reinforced my interest in politics, equipped me with practical skills, and provided a realistic perspective,” Dr Mansfield said.
Bridget Vallence MP, an alum of the inaugural Pathways to Politics cohort, was re-elected for her second term as the Liberal member for Evelyn in the Victorian Legislative Assembly. Ms Vallence said that Pathways to Politics is a vitally important program that provides women from a variety of backgrounds with the tools and confidence to run for election.
“The program is candid about how challenging it is being in politics, and how women regardless of political persuasion experience common challenges, but can work together to break down these barriers,” Ms Vallence said.
The program in Victoria is delivered by the University of Melbourne in partnership with the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the Trawalla Foundation – both chaired by business and community leader Carol Schwartz AO.
Since founding at the University in 2016, Pathways to Politics has expanded into states and territories across Australia with partner programs at Queensland University of Technology, University of New South Wales and Charles Darwin University.
This year, the program is expanding its reach into South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory through partnerships with the University of Adelaide and University of Canberra, who formally launched the program last week with special guests Ambassador for Gender Equality Stephanie Copus-Campbell, Carol Schwartz AO, Leader of the Canberra Liberals Elizabeth Lee MLA, and former ALP member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann.
It is anticipated partner programs will commence in Western Australia and Tasmania in the coming years – making the program fully national.
The University of Melbourne’s 2023 program will be delivered across 10 modules (face-to-face and online) from July-November 2023. It will include practical workshops, networking opportunities, panel discussions and Q&As with high-profile guest presenters from across the political spectrum, including politicians, journalists, analysts, advisors and strategists. Modules will cover topics such as political vision, campaign planning, media training, speech-writing and leadership skills.
Director of the University of Melbourne’s Pathways to Politics program, Dr Meredith Martin said: “We’re proud to deliver a highly successful program that provides a safe space for women of diverse backgrounds, professions, cultures, and ideologies to fulfil their shared aspiration to pursue public office. We’re eager to meet our next participants and support them as they make their pathways into politics.”
The program is available free to 25 participants each year. Places are open to female and non-binary residents of Victoria who are selected on a competitive basis.
Applications are open now until 11:59pm on 1 May and can be made via Pathways to Politics website.