Vickie Chapman: “I need to use my influence now”

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.

(Source: The Australian)

Vickie Chapman Member for Bragg in the South Australian Parliament.

Vickie is also the Deputy Premier and Attorney-General of South Australia, the first woman to hold either of those roles.

Vickie was first elected in 2002 and had been President of the Liberal Party in the early 1990s. Her father had been an MP in the South Australian Parliament, and she had assisted him in campaigning.

Immediately upon election, Vickie joined the front bench and has been in party leadership for the majority of her parliamentary career.

Vickie has taken a keen interest in law reform, including improving the operations of the justice system, social issues as they effect women, like domestic violence and abortion, and economic regulation.

Before entering parliament, Vickie was a lawyer and ran her own practice.

Other interviews can be accessed here

What does gender equality mean to you?

For me, it means that women are not limited or defined by their gender.

I also think that true equality will not be realised until the social expectations of men shift, such as fathers also taking substantial time out of the workforce to raise their children.

Which female politicians have inspired or encouraged you?

Ms Chapman with Zero, South Australia’s inaugural canine court companion for vulnerable witnesses.

There are many but I would not be where I am without Amanda Vanstone. She has been a mentor and friend for decades.

It is no secret that Amanda was not John Howard’s favourite Minister, but through relentless hard work, uncompromising liberal principles and never forgetting that politics is about service, she always managed to find her way back into his Cabinet.

What inspired you to serve your community?

My father, who was the local Member of Parliament where I grew up on Kangaroo Island.

From an early age, he instilled in me the need for hard work for the betterment of the community, although perhaps not as fervently as he expressed it:

“Pay well those who work hard, provide for those who can’t, and starve those who won’t.”

Ironically, he never wanted me to run for Parliament and told everyone this. That just made me more determined.

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

As Attorney-General, I am responsible for the majority of legislation that is brought before the Parliament. This work is critical to the effective performance and improvement of our justice system.

In terms of what I find personally important, I don’t believe in only finding one’s voice on controversial social issues after one has left the Cabinet. I need to use my influence now — which is I why I have sponsored the decriminalisation of abortion, and the decriminalisation of sex work.

These are issues that fundamentally affect women, and the most controversial aspects in these Bills only affect the most vulnerable of women.

What is next for gender equality in politics?

Pre-selecting and electing more Liberal women.

While Labor has done well in increasing women’s representation in their Parliamentary Party, it is also unfortunately true for both parties that women are often pre-selected for marginal seats.

Without a critical mass of women, and without safer seats to aid in their advancement, issues that affect women will be overlooked by political parties and in the Cabinet.

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