Perin Davey: As equals
“If you want to whinge, you have to be prepared to participate in an effort to improve things”
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.
Perin Davey is a Senator for New South Wales. She was first elected in 2019.
After growing up in Canberra, Perin has had a few unique experiences. She has been a journalist in regional New South Wales, worked in public relations, and ran a hospitality company on the safari trail in Botswana. She has also served as an Army reservist.
Though she has long been focused on regional issues, this took a step up when she began working as a farm administrator and then in water policy. Before entering parliament, she served on the boards of the New South Wales Irrigators’ Council and Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
What does gender equality mean to you?
Gender equality to me means freedom of choice.
Freedom to choose what career I want regardless of gender — to drive trucks, quarry mines, teach children or nurse the ill — without fear of judgement or intimidation. Freedom to contribute and participate with equal capacity and for my voice to be heard with equal resonance.
To be viewed as an equal amongst my peers.
Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?
Not a politician, but definitely a woman in politics — the first female president of an Australian political party was Shirley McKerrow OAM.
Firstly, president of the Victorian Country Party, Shirley was elected Federal President of the National Party in 1981.
During her terms she dealt with the divisive push by then Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen to run for a Federal seat (and ostensibly the position of PM). Mrs McKerrow was a formidable leader in troubled times who never lost her grace and style.
I am sure she unsettled many men who wrongly assumed she would be a walkover.
What inspired you to serve your community?
I am a firm believer in the principle that if you want to whinge, you have to be prepared to participate in an effort to improve things.
It is like complaining about your child’s school but not being prepared to volunteer on the P&C.
One year a vacancy arose and I thought about who would be likely to put their hand up and I felt that I should also show that I am willing to have a go.
What are the most important contributions you are making in Parliament?
As a National, I promised I would look at issues and how they impact on regional Australians.
I am pleased to say I have been able to make change so that, what are often unintentional consequences for regional Australians, are now being highlighted and addressed prior to the final legislation being passed. And I am a working example for the next generation from rural and regional Australia, regardless of gender.
What is next for gender equality in politics?
As we get more role-models, across the whole political spectrum, we will see more women engage and become involved.
In the Senate we have now reached 50 per cent equal gender representation. It is requisite of all women in politics to engage and encourage the next cohort to get involved.
We must support each other and I thank all of my female colleagues from both sides for doing that.