Record number of Pathways to Politics for Women alums running in Victorian election

Pathways to Politics Program for Women participants at Parliament House.

A record number of alum of an innovative program advancing female participation in Australian politics are standing in this month’s Victorian state election.

19 alum of the Pathways to Politics Program for Women from across the political spectrum are standing as candidates for election on 26 November.

The Pathways to Politics Program for Women is a non-partisan initiative that equips women with the skills, knowledge, confidence and networks they need to run for elected office and thrive as political leaders.

Debbie Taylor-Haynes – running as the Liberal candidate for Bentleigh – credits the program in supporting her entry into political life and said: "It has been brilliant on so many levels – content, invaluable insight and guidance on getting pre-selected. The wonderful, inspiring speakers, along with speeches in Parliament and Graduation at Government House has been incredible."

Wesa Chau – running as the Labor candidate for Prahran – said the program had successfully brought "a great network of amazing women into politics,"

"There has never been a more important time to bring people together from right across the party spectrum to campaign for the rights and opportunities of vulnerable people.” Chau said.

Dr Kate Lardner – running as an Independent candidate for Mornington – said she was motivated to undertake Pathways to Politics to understand the benefits and limitations of serving as a member of parliament, and that the program was "absolutely fantastic... I learned about independent candidates and realised how influential they could be in not only making change on major issues, but changing the culture of politics,"

"I realised then that I wanted to explore this further, and I went on to set up Voices for Mornington Peninsula, as grassroots campaigning was what I was familiar with."

The program in Victoria is delivered by the University of Melbourne, in partnership with the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the Trawalla Foundation - both chaired by business and community leader Carol Schwartz AO.

Since founding in 2016, Pathways to Politics has expanded into states and territories across Australia with partner programs at Queensland University of Technology, University of New South Wales and Charles Darwin University.

In 2023, the program will expand into the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia, and it is anticipated partner programs will commence in Western Australia and Tasmania in the coming years – making the program fully national.

Director of the University of Melbourne Pathways to Politics Program, Dr Meredith Martin said: "We’re extremely proud to see a record 19 of our Pathways to Politics alums standing for seats in this election. We applaud each of them for their remarkable determination and dedication to serving their communities, and to changing the face of politics."

"Building on the success of our national collaboration, we’re thrilled to be working with foundational partners Trawalla Foundation and Women’s Leadership Institute Australia to expand the national network, with new universities coming on board in South Australia and ACT later this year,"

"Together, the Pathways to Politics partnership is helping to build a critical mass of women – from all sides of politics – on a national scale," Dr Martin said.

Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and Trawalla Foundation Chair Carol Schwartz said: "The University of Melbourne has been an excellent founding partner, and together with our other university partners we have built a program that is literally changing the face of Australian politics."

"For me this is about optimising outcomes for our country by ensuring that men and women together share power, leadership and decision making. Having 19 of our alum running in the Victorian state election is a wonderful step towards that ultimate goal."

Prospective future participants can learn more and submit an expression of interest on the Pathways to Politics website.