We interview a politician or someone working to help quality politicians do their job for each edition of our weekly briefing. Ashleigh is the founder of Raise Our Voice Australia, a training program to boost the presence of young female and non-binary voices in decision making. She's also a member of our New Voices Council and was listed in Forbes' 30 under 30 and AFR's Top 100 Women of Influence.
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How would you describe your political path?
Experimental and incomplete! I've always been interested in the way that systems can make or break equality but wasn't initially sure how to get involved. I've since run local and national campaigns, organized events to get more young women and gender diverse people to stand for election, run research about young women and gender diverse people and political engagement, and taught political literacy to give the skills to leverage the political system for positive change. I'm only getting started, and I'm excited for things to come.
What are the most useful lessons you've learnt along the way?
Politicians are people. They have needs, fears and challenges, and there's power in providing solutions.
It's critical to understand how the political system functions. Political actors don't always make this easy, but to make change, we need to understand where power lies and how decisions are made.
People are the heart of change. When people mobilize and call for outcomes, big things happen.
"Politicians are people. They have needs, fears and challenges, and there's power in providing solutions."
What are the top three(ish) things that could be done to get trusted, ethical and courageous politicians in your area?
Greater diversity. We need people to feel represented, which will build greater trust between the voting public and their politicians. The public need to be assured that their experiences are being accounted for in decision making and that their politicians make decisions in their best interests. This can't be achieved by a homogenous group of political officials.
Laws around political advertising. There is only loose legislation prohibiting mistruths in political advertisements in Australia. This weak legislation has led to some outlandish and misinformed claims by parties, politicians, and in election campaigns. It has also contributed to widespread confusion and an erosion of trust between political actors and the public.
Integrity. Our federal parliament currently has no anti-corruption or integrity commission. This was an issue in the last federal election, with parties debating whether this should exist, and how much power it should have. The debate has further eroded trust between federal politicians and the public.
Media reform. Media reporting of politicians can result in biased reporting, threats that impact the safety of the political actor, and negative commentary, which impacts politicians' mental health. Unfair reporting also deters the next generation from wanting to get involved or run for office. We need more ethical and implementable standards of media reporting.
What ideas and/or people are inspiring you at the moment?
Australia's May 2022 election saw a record number of young people enrolling to vote and a significant number of people driving issue-based campaigns and fundraising. I feel inspired by the power of the people who showed up to create the outcome, which was largely driven by a want for action on gender equality, climate, and greater integrity in politics. I'm looking forward to seeing how we can leverage this momentum. I'm hopeful.
What story do you want communities to tell about politicians?
I want communities to feel heard, represented, and proud of the people representing them. I want communities to see politicians as leaders they're proud of and genuinely creating a better and more inclusive future.
Do you know of an inspiring person we should interview in the future? Send us your suggestions via email or on by following us on social media.