Vicki Ward is the current MP for Eltham, serving as the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport in the state government. Vicki is a passionate advocate for the environment, education and human rights. She has had many key achievements during her time in parliament including reopening TAFE courses in Nillumbik, introducing new train services and securing grants for local community associations. Today, she reflects on some of her achievements and shares some advice for women looking to pursue similar roles in politics.
Last year, thousands of Victorian school students participated in the climate strike. Young leaders are shaping Victoria's climate change movement and they want their elected representatives to work towards environmental reform. As someone who is in a position of power and who cares deeply about the environment, how do you hope to work with students to address the environmental issues in your community?
As a regular visitor to my local schools, I have ongoing face to face conversations with young people in our community. Two issues regularly come up; climate change and support for mental health. Every year I also coordinate a Youth Council in the seat of Eltham to help young people be heard and offer them the opportunity to meet with state Ministers, including the Minister for Climate Change.
You were actively involved with the successful “Save the Reserves” campaign. Grassroots movements are initially challenging. Did you experience any obstacles during your involvement with the campaign and how did you overcome them?
I guess the main obstacle was in helping some local councillors to understand the depth of feeling of the concerns of locals regarding the sale and the reasons why they felt this way. One of the ways in which I overcame this was to speak directly to a council meeting which was to hear from the community views of the sale. I helped keep people informed via social media and offered support wherever I could. Our community is well versed in working together towards a common cause; there are many shared values. In supporting the community and helping them raise their voice, I did not experience any obstacles.
Currently, are you working with any conservation campaigns and if so, how can students get involved?
I am working with Eltham Rotary helping them find support and funding for a huge planting campaign they wish to run this year - over 10,000 seedlings to be planted in our community. Rotary will be engaging with our local primary schools, with which I will also help.
As a reputed female public servant, have you personally experienced any misogyny during your career? Would you agree with the argument that patriarchy is prevalent in governmental institutions?
That is a really interesting question. I have experienced more misogyny online and on the streets of Melbourne than I have while working / in my career. I have experienced sexism, however, in the sense of not being heard at meetings (but a male voice saying the same thing five minutes later is heard!), asking who will look after my children if I am an MP (less so from colleagues, more so from the public, including ALP members). I have also been supported and mentored by men, so it hasn’t been a black and white journey for me.
What is some advice you can offer to young women interested in working for the public sector?
Do what gives you joy, what makes life and working as enjoyable and fun as you can. If policy is the area that sparks your mind and feels like fun - go for it. There may be obstacles, there often is, but they are usually not entrenched. Learn from your challenges and grow and strengthen. Making life better for people - which is what good public policy should achieve - is absolutely worth devoting a working life to.
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