Women are doing it for themselves

Carol Saffer

The Pathways to Politics Program for Women is a non-partisan initiative aiming to change the face of politics by equipping women with the skills, knowledge, confidence and networks they need to run for elected office and thrive as political leaders.

The brainchild of business and community leader Carol Schwartz AO, chair of Trawalla Foundation and Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and in partnership with the University of Melbourne, the program was launched in 2016 to tackle the underrepresentation of women in Australian politics.

University of Melbourne vice-president (strategy and culture) Dr Julie Wells anticipates that at least 20 program alumni nationally will run in this year’s federal and state elections.

“The program has a proven track record in supporting our talented and committed women to achieve elected office across the country,” Dr Wells said.

Dr Olivia Ball, an alumnus of the inaugural Pathways to Politics Program for Women Program, was elected as a councillor with the City of Melbourne in November 2020.

Dr Ball joined the Australian Greens political party in 2000.

“My political motivation is to make the world a fairer and more sustainable place,” she said.

“[Early in my political career] I received the proverbial tap on the shoulder suggesting I should think about running as we need a candidate for this seat.”

“I said ‘yes’ and then applied to the program to equip myself with the skills I need and expand my understanding of the role and what it’s like to be in politics.”

“I was thrilled to be selected for the program; it was a great honour, and an amazing program [designed to] prepare and expand the range of women running for public office.”

Dr Ball describes the program as skills training, exposure to new ideas, potential pitfalls and networking and meeting extraordinary women across the political spectrum.

“It’s extraordinary what Carol Schwartz has created and supported with her own philanthropy; I commend and thank her, and I would certainly encourage other women to apply,” she said.

Dr Katie Allen, Federal MP for the Victorian seat of Higgins, also a program alumnus, said, “you cannot be what you cannot see.”

“That’s why the Pathways to Politics program is so important. It provides a window into the experience of those who have been politically successful,” Dr Allen said.

“We need to change the political conversation, and the way to do that is to get more women elected.”

Applications for the 2022 University of Melbourne Pathway to Politics Program are open to female-identifying and non-binary residents of Victoria until Tuesday, April 26.

The program is also available at the Queensland University of Technology and the University of New South Wales.

For more imformation: pathwaystopolitics.org.au

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June 29th, 2022 - Carol Saffer
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