Senate Vacancy Puts Light on Left Women


The next two years in Canberra politics have the potential to provide ACT Labor women with a great opportunity for development and empowerment.

Paradoxically, while these opportunities are substantial they will require the Left to adopt a formal strategy that is focused on developing and mentoring progressive women that to date has been largely absent.

While we can lament how it should not take a sudden resignation to reflect on these issues, it has and it is therefore incumbent amongst the newly appointed Left Convenors to plan for.

The recent resignation of long-serving ACT Senator and Left member Kate Lundy and the planned enlargement of the ACT Legislative Assembly from 2016, with an additional 7 seats, will open up political opportunities to a swathe of new contenders.

The almost simultaneous timing of these events will require critical planning by members of the ACT Left and renewing our caucus will be crucial.

Little more than a week after Lundy's resignation, Canberra's popular and progressive Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher announced her intention to fill the Senate vacancy.

Responding to Katy's announcement, a delighted Bill Shorten labeled her a "star recruit" and with 11 years of public life behind her, Gallagher has potential to be a valuable member of a Labor government's front bench.

While Katy's transition to the federal arena is welcome it also prompts questions about the emergence of high-profile candidates and the requisite level of preparedness of progressive women to take on public roles.

Though the Left has a strong cohort of passionate and active young women, Kate's resignation and Katy's transition has forced us to confront their preparedness and confidence in contesting the upcoming season of pre-selection and taking on leadership roles.

We also need to confront what is a latent degree of trepidation amongst members of the Left with revealing, and hence cultivating, their political ambitions.

For too long caucus has become a place of strategy rather than a hub of policy vision and succession planning. This is why, as a co-convenor of Canberra's Labor Left, I will be looking to introduce a formal development and mentoring strategy for Left women.

Commencing in 2015, and with input from our political and union leaders, this strategy will aim to provide the foundations for renewing our caucus, building broader support amongst the Party and developing Left women in time for 2016.

An initial starting point will be an open invitation to Left women to attend informal "kitchen-table" conversations so as to gauge their experiences (both positive and negative) to date, what they wish to achieve out of their party involvement and how they think the Left can best capitalise on its cohort of women.

Following this introduction, I will advocate for the Left to introduce a formal mentoring strategy that captures and connects with new Left members.

Through mentoring we facilitate better engagement across caucus and mitigate against the angst commonly felt amongst newcomers.

Further, by adopting regular policy days we can build a strong knowledge base and create an environment for debate that is outside the cacophony of conference and the agenda pressures of sub-branch meetings.

Lastly, by introducing workshops focused on cultivating a tangible set of campaign skills, we can embolden caucus women in time for 2016.

While this strategy will be implemented in the New Year, the motivation and inspiration already exists.

ACT Labor has seen a number of women achieve great political heights from humble beginnings but we must begin the processes of development and succession planning anew if we are to see talented progressive Left women contest the 2016 ACT elections.


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  • commented 2014-12-21 01:51:12 +1100
    Good article. Couldnt agree more with your intentions for discussion around the issues you’ve covered. Build,build,build! Much work to be done!