Fiona Simpson: Service above self

“People matter most and I hope we never lose sight of that in the midst of the big issues.”

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.

Fiona Simpson is the Member for Maroochydore in the Queensland Parliament.

Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, Fiona attended local schools and then undertook a Rotary Exchange Student to Japan.

Prior to entering parliament, she was a journalist with a focus on rural issues.

For almost 30 years, Fiona has been a constant in Queensland politics, serving as the Member for Maroochydore since 1992. She has held a range of senior roles in the party, including as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and for a term was Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

Fiona was a key player in the formation of the LNP, a merger between the former National and Liberal Parties which she believed was important to provide a viable conservative government in Queensland. As then Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Deputy Opposition Leader, Fiona voluntarily relinquished these roles to the former Liberal leader to help facilitate the merger.

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What does gender equality mean to you?

In a first world country, it means being able to celebrate people’s gifts and their differences with choices about livelihoods and lifestyles rather than being limited by stereotypes.

However, I am very aware that for many women in less developed countries, survival and basic access to education and maternal and child health services continues to be a struggle.

Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?

Boadicea! Why? Her courage against enormous odds. It’s my mother’s favourite name for me.

A Celtic tribal leader, Boadicea unfortunately died a pretty horrible death but while she was at the height of her power she successfully led an uprising against the conquering forces of the Roman Empire.

What inspired you to serve your community?

My parents have been my biggest inspiration. Both Mum and my late Dad were always engaged in community from Guides, Scouts, Sports, Progress Association, you name it.

They led by example of not sitting back but getting involved in hands-on helping of other people.

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

When people come up to me and say they wouldn’t be alive today without my intervention, that still makes me emotional.

People matter most and I hope we never lose sight of that in the midst of the big issues.

What is next for gender equality in politics?

Be kind, be passionate and don’t sit back and whinge, make a difference for those who need a hand.

We are incredibly privileged in this country and that brings an obligation to help others here and overseas.

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