Emma Davidson: Continuing her work

“Gender equality means more than legal rights.”

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.

Emma Davidson is the Member for Murrumbidgee in the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory, and Minister for Disability, Justice Health and Mental Health as well as Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services.

Before entering the Assembly in 2020, Emma worked in social research and advocacy at the Women’s Centre for Health Matters and at Equality Rights Alliance, managed online communications for the Australian Medical Association, been Director of Information Management at Navy, worked in private sector software development, owned and managed a small retail business, and spent seven years working at Centrelink.

A passionate advocate for women, Emma was previously the Convenor of the Women’s Electoral Lobby.

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What does gender equality mean to you?

It means more than legal rights.

It’s about services and economic opportunities being accessible to all of us, and that gender is acknowledged and respected.

Gender equality is as important for men as it is for women and non-binary people: stereotypes and assumptions about gender are restrictive.

Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?

Most of the Greens members of the ACT Legislative Assembly have been women.

Within my own party, it’s quite normal to see women in leadership positions, whether that’s on committees or in party administration, or in the Assembly.

More specifically, Senator Rachel Siewert is one of the many reasons I joined the Greens as a member. I met with her as a community sector advocate on housing affordability for older women about a decade ago. Her understanding of the issue, and the way she worked alongside us in the community sector to find solutions, was something that I hadn’t seen from other Parliamentarians at that time.

Caroline Le Couteur has also been very supportive and generous with her time and experience, particularly when I supported her 2016 election campaign. Her integrity and determination are qualities that made her time as an MLA so successful in pulling the Government towards progressive policies supported by evidence.

It was her encouragement that prompted me to nominate for preselection for the 2020 election.

What inspired you to serve your community?

I’m in the Assembly for the same reasons I was previously working in the community sector.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to take care of people and our environment, and it’s my responsibility to use the skills I have to help.

Some of that work is about funding programs and passing laws that support people’s access to health, education, social services, and housing, and to take care of our beautiful bush capital environment.

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

Ask me again when I’ve been here for more than five minutes!

I am looking forward to working with ACT Government and our Greens team to make a real difference in housing affordability, climate change action, valuing care work by supporting our community sector, and building stronger connections between people in our community.

I want to find ways to support the community having a more direct say in decision-making through participatory democracy.

What is next for gender equality in politics?

It’s exciting to see more diversity among women being elected across Australia.

Senators Lidia Thorpe and Mehreen Faruqi, and Jenny Leong in the NSW State Parliament, bring a perspective to Australian politics that we need more of, and they’re incredibly skilled and inspiring women to watch at work.

We also need more men following the leadership style set by Jacinda Ardern or Julia Gillard, with respectful discussion and negotiation so that we leave nobody behind.

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