'A woman's place is in the house'

Female candidates for the seat of Indi in Australia talk about women in politics:

THEY might represent different things politically, but the three female candidates for the seat of Indi are all united in their belief that a stronger representation of women should be felt in parliament.

Independent incumbent Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi), Liberal candidate Sophie Mirabella and Greens candidate Jenny O’Connor spoke to the Wangaratta Chronicleabout their experiences in politics.

The three women make up 30 per cent of the candidates for Indi in the 2016 election race – just above the 22 per cent representation of women sitting in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2016.

The representation is slightly higher in the Senate, with 29 women among the 76 Senators, or approximately 38 per cent.

Ms McGowan, who has been the sitting member since defeating Mrs Mirabella in 2013, said her experience as a woman in the House of Representatives had been ‘very positive’.

She said her experience working with the male dominated Victorian Farmers Federation, National Farmers’ Federation and in the agriculture sector helped calm reservations about entering the male-dominated political field.

‘Way, way back, my mother gave me a mug that said ‘a woman’s place is in the House…’ and on the back it said ‘…of Representatives and in the Senate’,’ Ms McGowan told the Chronicle.

‘For me, it’s not so much about being a woman, but it’s about how I can be effective in a different environment.

‘Particularly in the country, working with farming men, you’ve got some very conservative and traditional men, right through to the more modern day approach.

‘Parliament is very similar, you have all sorts of people and I’ve found it most useful to be true to myself.’

Ms McGowan said increasing the number of women in politics could be done through opportunities for young people and would be helped by maintaining the national conversation on the topic.

‘I really, really encourage young women and all young people to be involved in politics and one way I do that is through work experience at my offices in Wodonga, Wangaratta and Canberra,’ she said.

‘Giving people that opportunity first hand gives them a chance to see what the job is all about.’