Anne Aly: I want to make sure that every person is represented

As an academic, Anne Aly was called on by Barack Obama — now she’s bring that expertise to the Parliament.

Almost 100 years ago, Edith Cowan became the first woman elected to an Australian parliament, in March 1921.

In Her Seat is asking as many currently serving female politicians as we can how they view gender equality, politics and their impact.

This is a non-partisan project that is soliciting contributions from women in all parties, or none at all, in every parliament.

Anne Aly is the Federal Member for Cowan, a Western Australian seat, and the first Muslim woman elected to the Federal Parliament.

Before politics, Anne was an academic specialising in counter-terrorism and worked on multicultural issues for the WA Government.

In parliament, Anne has been working to apply her academic knowledge on issues like foreign affairs and has spoken about being the victim of domestic violence.

But it’s not all serious, her use of memes is up there with the best.

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What does gender equality mean to you?

True gender equality goes beyond just representation to meaningful participation.

To me, gender equality means that women and men not only have equal opportunities but that the structures that currently exist preventing women from achieving in leadership roles are dismantled to ensure that there is also an equal focus on equality of outcomes.

Until all women can participate equally at all levels of political, economic and social life, we have not achieved gender equality.

Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?

I consider Tanya Plibersek not just a friend but an inspiration. She does her utmost to encourage and support other women in the Caucus.

Linda Burney is also a great inspiration to me. Her passion and persistence are unmatched.

What inspired you to serve your community?

Quite simply, the lack of political will for meaningful change that I observed. I believe there is a better way and that politics can be better.

Too often decisions are made on the basis of political expediency or because that’s the way things have always been done.

I believe that we can have a political system that is more representative of the community we serve and that is driven by the will to serve those people.

What are the most important contributions you are making in Parliament?

I want to leave the Parliament a better place for the next woman of colour (hopefully women). I want to tread a path for them so that they can overcome some of the barriers and challenges that I have experienced.

I want to make sure that every person is represented, every voice is heard and every experience is counted.

What is next for gender equality in politics?

A focus on substantive equality.

Moving to a more meaningful representation of women at all levels so that they can affect change.

I want to see a focus on intersectionality and a recognition that while we celebrate our achievements as women in Parliament, there are still many women who are locked out — women of colour, women with disabilities, women from diverse backgrounds.

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