Rebecca Vassarotti: With new energy

“We need our parliaments to reflect our community, so as well as gender equity in politics we also need to see more diversity among the women who put up their hands to be elected representatives.”

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.

Rebecca Vassarotti is the Member for Kurrajong in the Australian Capital Territory Parliament, and Minister for the Environment, Heritage, Homelessness and Housing Services and Sustainable Building Construction.

Rebecca entered parliament in 2020 and was immediately appointed a minister.

Born and raised in Canberra, Rebecca has long worked on issues relating to social cohesion and community development. Prior to entering parliament, Rebecca was a senior and respected executive in the not-for-profit sector, locally, nationally and internationally, with the YWCA, ACOSS and the International Network on Hepatitis and Substance Use.

Other interviews can be accessed here

What does gender equality mean to you?

To me, gender equality means that everyone has equality of opportunity and is able to meet their potential — independent of the gender they were born with.

It means fairness, equity and everyone contributing to their family, community and the world.

I want my daughter and sons to be treated with respect, nurtured and able to contribute their talents and live a good life.

Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?

There are many female politicians who inspire me.

Some of our current world leaders are very inspiring — Jacinda Adern for showing kindness as a strength, and Angela Merkel for being prepared to stand up for what is right in relation to her response to the European refugee crisis.

I was incredibly excited to see Lydia Thorpe, a proud First Nations woman sworn in as a senator in the Federal parliament last year, as a Greens senator for Victoria.

I also remember the moment when we had a female Governor-General, Prime Minister and ACT Chief Minister — this was incredibly inspiring and gave me hope that things were changing and women’s leadership was possible and achievable.

What inspired you to serve your community?

I have always been very conscious of how lucky I have been, in relation to the opportunities and experiences I have had.

Some professional experiences working in the community sector led me to reflect that while I had been lucky, others have been very unlucky and their circumstances have been the result of things like an illness, family issues or trauma.

This made me very committed to working in areas that made a difference for others in the community.

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

As a relatively new parliamentarian, my contributions are really ahead of me.

With my election into the Legislative Assembly last year with a number of other ACT Greens members, a key focus was negotiating a parliamentary and governing agreement with the other party (ACT Labor) in our power-sharing government.

This document sets out a range of priority areas that we are focused on delivering on, in areas such as reducing homelessness, improving environmental sustainability and ensuring our political process is more connected to community.

I am really excited about delivering on these initiatives.

What is next for gender equality in politics?

I am really excited to be serving in a female-majority legislature and in a female-majority cabinet here in the ACT.

We need to see this replicated across the nation and the world and for this to be unremarkable.

We need our parliaments to reflect our community, so as well as gender equity in politics we also need to see more diversity among the women who put up their hands to be elected representatives — First Nations women, women of colour, young women and women with a range of experiences and backgrounds.

In Her Seat interviews can be accessed here

Read more about In Her Seat here

Follow In Her Seat on Instagram and Twitter