Trish Doyle: Always persevering

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.

Trish Doyle is the Member for Blue Mountains in the New South Wales Parliament and Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, Women and Prevention of Domestic Violence.

Trish grew up in country NSW, trained as a school teacher, then worked in schools primarily in Sydney’s west. Always engaged in the community, she was the founding Co-ordinator of the NSW Women’s Information & Referral Service.

Amongst this, Tirsh had stints in state and federal political offices, like that of Tanya Plibersek’s.

Since her election in 2015, Trish has campaigned for improved public transport services, environmental protection and better public health and education services and infrastructure.

Other interviews can be accessed here

What does gender equality mean to you?

The term gender equality means men and women should have equal access to education, employment opportunities and resources.

Regardless of our gender, class, race, ability or sexual orientation we deserve equal respect, to be treated with dignity and the right to feel safe at home and in the community.

For me as a politician, I believe women must have equal access to opportunities to achieve their full potential. This includes the right to control their bodies, their fertility and to make choices and decisions regarding the life they wish to lead.

As a Member of Parliament, I have the privilege of being able to advocate on behalf of women. I believe I have a responsibility to encourage and mentor young women and women new to the Parliament, of supporting my female colleagues and being supported. A practical way of doing this is by working in collaboration with others. A good example is Emily’s List which aims to increase the number of progressive women MPs in Australian state, territory and federal parliaments.

Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?

Two Important political influences in my life are Tanya Plibersek MP, Federal Member for Sydney, and Helen Westwood MLC who served as a Member of the Legislative Council in the NSW Parliament.

These women have supported and mentored me in very practical ways.

As a working-class girl from the country, I never anticipated that I could be a Member of Parliament.

This was a role completely beyond my experience and upbringing. Both of these women believed in me and, with their encouragement, I ran as a Labor candidate and was elected as the Member for Blue Mountains in 2015.

Tanya and Helen are both down to earth women who possess a strong commitment to social justice and equality. They have championed causes for women at all levels of government.

They understand the impact of legislation on the lives of women. They have been committed to abortion law reform and the prevention of domestic violence. These are both areas that have a big impact on the lives of women in the community. For decades we have needed reform, but there has been an unwillingness by some in the Parliaments to support such reforms. We need champions like Tanya and Helen to move these issues forward in the best interests of women and the wider community.

Beyond the political realm, my two greatest inspirations have been my Nanna — who is 94 years of age and lived the life she wanted to, despite hurdles. She has always encouraged me to do the same. And — my old mate (the late) Margaret Jones, aka ‘Warrior Womyn’ who walked the journey with me through university and into this world, as I found my feminist voice.

What inspired you to serve your community?

After leaving my country community I came to Sydney to study. I trained as a teacher and taught in many public schools in Sydney, Queensland, Internationally, and the Blue Mountains.

I maintain a strong commitment to public education which I believe is a powerful force in shaping people’s lives and providing opportunities for change and personal growth.

I have always been a problem solver and believe in a ground-up approach to political change.

By working with others and encouraging communities to take action, I believe we can achieve sustainable change.

People tell me that I am approachable, a ‘real’ person who has lived through adversity and I hope that this is one of the qualities that makes me a suitable member of parliament. We need a new ‘politics’ that is more representative of real people and their lives.

I hope one day to serve as part of a Labor government in NSW where I can continue advocating for and bringing about legislative change that reflect my values and my commitment to social justice and gender equality.

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

Trish Doyle (centre) with the leader and deputy leader of the NSW Opposition, Jodi McKay (L) and Yasmin Catley (R).

I see my role in the NSW Parliament as providing a voice for those in my community who do not have one. I also believe that as an MP, I am a conduit from the people to the Parliament.

As a local member I regularly raise my community’s concerns on the floor of the NSW Parliament and through other parliamentary processes, such as ministerial correspondence, committees and Parliamentary inquiries.

As the Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the Shadow Minister for Women and the Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, I believe that I’ve made significant contributions. For example advocacy on behalf of the domestic violence sector to improve funding and resources to enable them to provide the best services possible to assist women victims/survivors. This is an ongoing process as we face budgetary constraints which means that there are never enough resources on the ground to keep women and children safe. I am part of a team working on ground-breaking law as we move to criminalise coercive control behaviours in new Domestic Violence laws.

In Emergency Services, especially during the 2019–2020 bushfire season, I have met with a large number of Firefighters across the state and have represented their issues and needs to the Minister as well as to the NSW Bushfire Inquiry. I hope that this work will result in improved funding, better structures and safer operations for Firefighters and SES personnel in the communities they serve.

What is next for gender equality in politics?

When I first decided to run for pre-selection, I received feedback from a number of men who told me I “didn’t look the part” and I shouldn’t run, that I came “from the wrong side of the tracks”.

Women such as Tanya Plibersek and Helen Westwood encouraged me.

They stood by my side. I’m so glad I did persevere because I feel I have a lot to give through the political representation of my community, for women.

Since the beginning of the second wave of feminism, we have seen a lot of change in the political sphere as well as in practical and policy domains.

We’ve seen a large amount of change in the areas of rape and domestic violence services initiated by the women’s movement itself and politicians have been forced to jump on board.

I think most women in politics would agree that we still have a long way to go. We must be trailblazers, wave the flag for a safer and more equitable world. I’m up for the challenge!

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