There Was Joy and There Was Hope on the Pathway to Politics

Decorative image of QUT Workshop inprogress
Ruth McGowan OAM
Standing for public office is for those ‘crazy-brave few’ of us who are optimistic about the ability of politics to make a difference for our planet, your community or the economy. Congratulations to all alumni of QUT 2020 who stood for office, or are planning a future campaign. Know that even if you were not elected (this time), when you run for politics you have a platform that enables you to amplify the causes you care about. Through the act of ‘sticking your head up and giving it a crack’ you can make a difference as a leader.
Thank you.

– Ruth McGowan OAM Author Get Elected 

The QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program saw four of our final fifteen inaugural cohort recently go up for the Queensland State Election and two run for Local Council. We asked those who ran to reflect on their experiences, this is what they have to say:

Reflections on your campaign – how did you feel, what did/didn’t you expect, what was your favourite moment?

Raelene Ellis
Raelene Ellis

At first, I felt quite nervous and worried I wouldn’t know answers to questions when on a panel or approached by media, but as the campaign went on I think I found my feet and really felt more confident. It was definitely a big learning curve.  My favourite moment was when I made a comment at a panel event that got picked up by the media, who further investigated it, and a number of articles resulted.  The issue I raised was then posed to the Premier when she visited the area during the election.  I then saw it randomly posted on a local Facebook group where the local community started to discuss the issue. It was great to see that I opened up that conversation.      … Raelene Ellis

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Fiona Gaske
Fiona Gaske

I felt I ran the best grassroots campaign I could. I literally could not have given any more – emotionally, physically, or financially. It was hugely impactful on my family but they were absolute troopers and I was blessed to have them by side. My husband was amazing and I couldn’t have done it without his support. We had a small but fantastic team that utilised everyone’s strengths. We worked very hard to source appropriate resources and finance and I was blown away by how welcoming the community was towards us.

As a former Councillor, I thought that a grassroots campaign would be very important, and I still believe that. However, on reflection, I wasn’t prepared for the overall ‘state’ effect of the pandemic and responses to border closures, which ultimately, I believe, is what swept us out. I was disappointed that voters were thinking about that and not their local candidate but that was one of the lessons.

My favourite moment was when a lady living with disability came up the path at pre-poll calling my name and waving madly. I had met her door-knocking, connected her with Global Care, and had taken a care package around for her. My other favourite moment was my campaign launch. Lots of family and friends came to support me, and it was a very exciting night – there was joy and there was hope, and I was feeling overwhelmed that so many people believed in me. Very humbling actually.  … Fiona Gaske

Do you think the program equipped you to handle some of the challenges faced?

Raelene: I think the program helped me immensely. I used especially the public speaking practice throughout my campaign (though I still ummed and ahhed badly in my first panel it quickly settled in subsequent panels) and I tried to incorporate a 3-word slogan in everything I did when talking and on FB (people before profit – not original but fitted well with my focus on aged care).

Fiona: The program cemented for me the importance of knowing ‘why’ you would run and being genuine in that intent. I ran in the second most marginal seat in the state. Every day I needed to mentally steel myself, my family, and my children for the mud that was thrown. But we did it, and we have come out of it all stronger and wiser; I believe we’ll be ok because I ran for the ‘right’ reasons and because we ran a campaign with integrity.

Will you give it another shot?

Raelene: I definitely will be back.

Fiona: Yes.  I will give it another shot. Although 4 years is a long time, it’s a good amount of time to grow and learn and sharpen the required tools.

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The QUT Pathways to Politics for Women team would like to acknowledge how extremely proud we are of our cohort participants who ran as candidates. It is not an easy feat to put yourself in the public arena. Making it through pre-selection is an incredibly rigorous and demanding process with this cascading into running for election.  We commend the determination, resilience, professionalism, and capabilities shown by our aspiring women politicians throughout each campaign.

We hope this is just the start of your political journey!

A message to our cohort from the QUT Pathways to PoliticsAdvisory Committee

Now that the dust has settled and the corflutes have been stored for next time I hope you have taken the time to give yourself a big pat on the back and feel a sense of pride for what you have achieved. You have had the courage and conviction to put yourself forward as a candidate and this in itself is a big deal. I am proud of you. No matter what our backgrounds or what we stand for as candidates we all share a common purpose and that is our deep belief in our democracy and our democratic processes and this is at the core of our shared Australian values. It is a great matter for celebration. For you personally, I truly hope you found the experience exciting and exhilarating even with its moments of being confronting and confounding. Well done! No matter what the result you have already made a difference and for that I thank you.”

– Mrs Linda Lavarch


Congratulatory Message to Participants of the PATHWAYS TO POLITICS Program

It was a great honour to be involved in the Pathways to Politics Program. I would like to sincerely congratulate all participants in the program. It is so wonderful and inspiring to see so many of you willing to undertake the program.

I thank and congratulate those who became candidates and ran for office. To stand up and be part of our great democratic process, to run as a candidate takes great courage and conviction. Be proud of standing on your values, your policies, and your party’s platform.

To those of you took the decision to run for preselection, this can be a daunting and rigorous process. You should be greatly buoyed by the important steps and milestones you have made so far.

I was so proud of all the participants and what you have achieved. The course was exciting, interesting, and fascinating at times, as you got a firsthand look at the political process. I know that you will be well prepared for whatever political path you chose in the future.

You will make an important contribution in whatever endeavour you choose.”

– Ufficiale Honourable Teresa Gambaro

Pathways to Politics group discussion
Honourable Linda Lavarch and Honourable Mary Crawford sharing their political journeys with the 2020 QUT Pathways to Politics for Women cohort.

For more information about the QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program click here .

QUT Pathways to Politics for Women


Kim is a Program Administrator at QUTeX, collaborating with a range of stakeholders from Government Representatives to Academic and Industry Experts to ensure the seamless delivery of QUT’s professional development opportunities. She is an experienced Administrator with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry, skilled in project management, operations management, customer service, and strategy.

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