QUT political course builds pathway to councils

QUT Pathways to Politics for Women graduates. | Newsreel
The successful program graduates: Top row (left to right): Pye Augustine, Sophie Bougoure, Cecilia (Seal) Chong Wah, Julia Dixon, Amy Eden, Sarah Diana Faraj. Bottom row (left to right): Naomi Fowler, Emily Kim, Jos Mitchell, Natalia Muszkat, Danita Parry, Leanne Patrick, Penny Wolff. | Photo: Supplied by QUT

Two of Queensland’s newly-elected mayors are graduates of a QUT program which delivered 13 successful candidates in March’s local government elections.

A total of 26 Pathways to Politics for Women graduates ran last month, with half securing council positions.

Jos Mitchell, from last year’s cohort, was elected Mayor of Redland City, south of Brisbane, while Amy Eden, a 2022 graduate, is the new Mayor of Cairns in Queensland’s north.

Rural and regional Queensland were the big winners, with eight alumni elected outside of Brisbane City Council divisions, including the Western Downs, Fraser Coast, Gladstone, and Cairns regional councils, and the Ipswich, Gold Coast and Redland city councils.

In Brisbane, five QUT alumni were elected across the Liberal National Party, Australian Labor Party and Queensland Greens.

Sophie Bougoure, from the 2022 cohort, is the first Indigenous candidate elected to the Western Downs Regional Council.

Fellow 2022 alum Sara Diana Faraj, 22, whose parents fled to Australia as refugees from the Middle East in 2000, won a seat on the Fraser Coast Regional Council as one of the youngest elected councillors.

QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program director Professor Vicky Browning said the election result was a triumph for the non-partisan national training program which gives women of diverse backgrounds the mentorship and training they need to pursue political careers.

“This is a significant showing of Pathways to Politics alumni in an election,” Professor Browning said.

“We had 26 alumni take part in the local government elections last month and this week we can confirm half of those women have been elected to office.”

Pathways to Politics for Women was initiated by Carol Swartz AO of the Trawalla Foundation in collaboration with the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the University of Melbourne to upskill and mentor women who are interested in pursuing political careers.

The foundational program was launched by the University of Melbourne in 2016 followed by QUT in 2020.

This year, Pathways to Politics for Women launches nationally, with leading universities in every state and territory now tailoring the program to their local context.

Since 2020, 85 women have completed the QUT program, with almost a third running in last month’s elections.

A total of 47 Pathways to Politics for Women alumni have been elected to office since the program was founded.

“You are getting some pretty smart women entering politics,” Professor Browning said.

“They come from various backgrounds; they’ve run their own companies, come from the public service, and they know they can make a difference in their communities.

“Pathways to Politics for Women is having a significant impact with strong network building, and what is interesting is that everyone supports each other in a non-partisan way.

“The course builds self-confidence to enable these women to put themselves forward. It also gives them the skills and knowledge to be able to engage with campaigning and fundraising, so these really practical skills, including how to front up to the media and deal with the challenges of social media.

“During the program they’ve written and delivered their stump speeches and they’ve learned from experienced women politicians who are supporting them through this program and as mentors as part of the Pathways Alum Mentoring program.”

The wave of specially trained future politicians extends beyond local government to state and federal politics with QUT alumni Trang Yen and Nayda Hernandez running in the recent Inala State By-election, following the departure of Queensland Premier and Member for Inala Annastacia Palaszczuk last year.

Another four women from the program will run in the Queensland state election in October where Queensland will be poised to welcome its 100th woman to state parliament. Sophia Li from the 2022 cohort will run as a federal Senate candidate in 2025.

“In Queensland, only 97 women have ever been elected to state parliament,” Professor Browning said.

“This number will grow in the coming years with support from programs like Pathways to Politics for Women.”

Applications are now open for the 2024 QUT Pathways to Politics for Women, closing on April 24.

You can register for a virtual information session to learn about the course, presented by program director Professor Vicky Browning, on Tuesday, April 16.

The successful QUT Pathways to Politics for Women alumni are:

Brisbane City Council:

  • Cecilia (Seal) Chong Wah (Paddington Ward) – Greens
  • Julia Dixon (Hamilton Ward) – LNP
  • Emily Kim (Calamvale Ward) – ALP
  • Danita Parry (Marchant Ward) – LNP
  • Penny Wolff (Walter Taylor Ward) – LNP

Cairns Regional Council:

  • Amy Eden (Cairns Mayor)

Gladstone Regional Council:

  • Natalia Muszkat (Division 1)
  • Leanne Patrick (Division 1)

Gold Coast City Council:

  • Naomi Fowler (Division 2)

Fraser Coast Regional Council:

  • Sara Diana Faraj (Division 9)

Ipswich City Council:

  • Pye Augustine (Division 1)

Redland City Council:

  • Jos Mitchell (Redland City Mayor)

Western Downs Regional Council:

  • Sophie Bougoure (Division 1)

Discover all of Queensland’s mayors for the next four years.

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