In the bright sunshine of the Women’s March in Sydney a very tall woman thrust a leaflet into my hand – Stay very mad and get elected – and reassured me that anyone can stand for election to local, state or federal government. The leaflet was for Ruth McGowan (OAM) and Licia Heath’s EQUIP workshops to help women run for public office.
The momentum of that march literally carried me, and no doubt many other women who are simply fed up with Australian politics as they stand now, towards the room where it happens.
With representation of women at 35% in Local Government and 37% in Federal, State and Territory Governments, it’s no surprise that women don’t feel the body politic is delivering for them as it should.
The recent (and not so recent) appalling behaviour we have witnessed from our elected representatives has driven many women to think they can do better.
Organised by Women For Election Australia and funded by the NSW Government, free EQUIP workshops have been held around NSW in the lead up to the upcoming September NSW Local Government elections.
Australia is the one of the few developed countries that don’t set targets for gender equality. There are 128 Councils in NSW and women represent only 30% of all councillors, with more disparity in the rural areas. Four councils have no women councillors at all.
WFEA was founded in 2014 and aims to inspire women from all backgrounds and lived experience to stand for public office, equip them to get elected and support them to thrive once they’re in office.
Licia is the CEO of Women for Election and was an independent candidate for the federal seat of Wentworth in 2018. Ruth is the author of “Get Elected”, a guide to winning public office, and was a councillor and Mayor of Baw Baw Shire Council, as well as the campaign coordinator for her sister Cathy’s successful campaign as an Independent for the federal seat of Indi. She’s a training partner for the workshops and brings her own WARM (World According to Ruth) wisdom, humour and serious experience to the training.
Both women are down-to-earth, compassionate advocates for more women in power. Ruth emphasises the importance of women standing up for women, even if they don’t share the same political views.
In a mere six hours we learned how to define our purpose, prepare, present, communicate, build a team, manage preferences, budget, manage time, build the processes that will see you through the campaign, and to never, ever, hold your hands together in front of your groin in photographs!
Ruth sees the process of standing for election as one of personal growth:
“Get out of your own way – there will never be a perfect time to run. Just get over yourself and do it now,” says Ruth McGowan OAM
The women at the workshop I attended in Parramatta were from all sides of the political spectrum, with the majority curious about running as independents. Some had already decided to run, one was already a Councillor and many ended the day inspired to take the next step.
Never hold your hands clasped in front like this
Ruth shows Linda the better way to use your hands
TIPS TO GET ELECTED
Unleash your ambition!
What do you want to change? Choose one thing but have others to work on once that’s achieved.
Secure your own name as a domain name before you declare – buy the url before your opponents do!
Research before you go to an event so you can call people by their names
You don’t have to have a thick skin to run for politics – we need people who are sensitive and compassionate.
Don’t delay – it takes an average 3 attempts to win office
Have a look at the wfea.org.au website for workshop dates, resources and online training opportunities.