Georgia Blackburn is currently the Communications Director at The Greens Western Australia. Leading up to this, she initially began her political journey with the WA Young Greens at university, and from here, has worked in a number of other roles in politics. This has included serving as the Director of Communications for Victorian Parliament and the Lead Digital Strategist for The Greens. Today, she reflects on her work with The Greens, the various campaigns she has led and her advice for young women in politics.
What was it like starting your career with The Greens? What sparked your passion for politics and volunteering?
In my final year of university, I was doing some soul searching about how I wanted to be involved in advocating for the many issues I was passionate about. At the time, I was doing a bachelor in English literature and indigenous history, heritage and knowledge. Through this, I was fortunate enough to do some volunteer research work in a senator’s office when she had the First Nations portfolio. The experience that I gained in this role really gave me insight into how politics work in an MPs office and taught me a whole range of skills that allowed me to start my career. This initial opportunity sparked a new passion in me and led me towards politics and volunteering with The Greens.
Anxiety and feeling like you don’t belong in the room are big issues among women in politics. How do you overcome these feelings?
One thing that I don’t shy away from talking about is my diagnosed anxiety and panic disorder. Living with anxiety can be very positive in many ways. Because of it, I am very driven, have high standards and pay great attention to detail. So, when my anxiety is being managed, I can harness it for good within my professional and personal life. However, when it isn't in control, it can leave me feeling uncertain and as though I don’t belong in the room.
Through experiencing these negative feelings, I’ve learned that it is only through managing my mental health that I can overcome them. While there isn’t one definitive answer about how anxiety can be managed, having a strong support system really helps. In the Greens, so many strong women and leaders run the organisation. In the past when I’ve felt anxious, these leaders have been there to support me and encourage me at every point. I’ve never felt afraid since then to reach out when I’m feeling uncertain.
What were your favourite campaigns that you led and why?
I’ve led and worked on so many amazing campaigns in my time with the Greens. While it is hard to choose, there are three standouts for me. Firstly, I’d love to mention the invasion day campaigns that we've run as part of a broader movement around moving away from celebrating January 26. We were essentially looking for ways to tangibly demonstrate our support and solidarity with our First Nations people. For me, what made this campaign so special was that we had a groundswell of support from councils who were moving away from celebrating on January, the 26th. It really helped motivate us throughout the campaign because we had no movement on this front from the federal government, so support from the councils meant a tangible recognition of the pain, genocide and colonisation this date represented.
Secondly, I’d love to mention our campaign against the rollout of cashless welfare cards and cashless debit cards. What made this campaign stand-out to me was the fact it made use of digital organising in a way it had never been done before. In this case, we were able to almost wholly organise a national campaign through Facebook groups (which weren’t commonly used at the time) and because of this, when something would happen in the chamber, we were able to disseminate the information quickly. Then, it could spread into the communities through their own networks.
However, I think the campaign that I’m most proud of today was the 2019 federal election campaign for our senate candidate, Jordan Steele-John. I’m someone who is incredibly passionate about diversity and representation. So, what made this campaign special was being able to see the response from the disability community to having a young disabled person, as a candidate. People felt like they had a representative in Jordan and it resulted in powerful action taking place. A highlight of the campaign for me was our 48-hour fundraiser called “Keep Jordan Rolling”. We aimed to raise our $46,000 but ended up almost doubling our goal and raised $88,000. One of the most powerful moments of this campaign was when Jordan called to thank a donor who donated $3.80 to the campaign. The person told us that it was all that they could afford but wanted to make sure they contributed in some way to making sure he was re-elected. That, to me, demonstrates the power of representation in our communities.
How can young people make a change and get politically involved at university?
Young people are fundamentally, our future and are the foundation of many progressive movements. Currently, in Australia, there is this groundswell of young people who are realising that decision-makers often aren’t reflecting their wants and needs. As a result, young people are looking more for ways to be involved in political decision-making. To me, this is so encouraging, because back when I was 18 or 19, and at university, you weren’t empowered with the knowledge and understanding about how our political system affects you directly. Much of the work that I do in the Greens party is about bringing people into our movement and empowering young people to understand how this system affects them. For me, this ensures that we are building a better future for all of us, not only those in power.
What would be your one piece of advice for young women looking to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is that you belong in these spaces and that women belong in these spaces. We need more women, people of colour, people with disabilities and non-binary people in these decision-making spaces because we’ve been locked out for too long. As women, we are so good at convincing ourselves that we don’t have the right skills or the needed experience for a role. The most important thing is that we continue to remind ourselves that we do have the skills, and we do have the experience.
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