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Looking for talented politicians? Broaden your gaze, says Julia Gillard

Jessie Tu, Women's Agenda

There’s no denying that our nation’s leadership is lacking cultural diversity.

Despite the government’s claims that “Australia is the most successful multicultural nation in the world”,  fewer than 20 of the 226 parliamentarians currently serving in the Federal Parliament come from a non-English speaking background.

Director of Nous Group, Stephanie Milione wants to see the dial shifted.

After spending two weeks in the U.S earlier this year, she’s now authored a report, titled ‘A Truly Representative Democracy: Increasing the representation of Indigenous and culturally diverse women in Australian politics’, released today.

The report explores both the challenges and opportunities for women from diverse backgrounds, recommending how EMILY’s List and the Australian Labor Party can best support women from diverse backgrounds into the future. 

The initiative from Emily’s List Australia, which supports women in the ALP, gave Milione the opportunity to travel to the U.S to research and conduct interviews as part of the ‘Julia Gillard Next Generation Internship’. This year’s report will be presented by Milione at the lunch-time event at Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor where  Gillard will also be present.

“I know the evidence shows diverse teams perform better,” Gillard said in a statement.

“That means there is much to be gained if our parliaments are truly representative of our communities. Congratulations to Stephanie on being this year’s intern and shining a light on the unique challenges facing women from diverse backgrounds and how we can best support them to get preselected, elected and have a fair opportunity to become a future Prime Minister.”

The internship provides a scholarship for an Australian woman to research and feed information back into the nation’s policy debate regarding women in politics. 

It’s the second year this Internship has been awarded to an Australia woman. EMILY’s List is an American political action committee that aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office. It is headquartered in Washington D.C and currently has around 3 million members.  

In a Facebook post, Milione also thanked the AWU – Australian Workers’ Union, who  sponsored the internship, and Julia Gillard who “made this ambition a reality.” 

Gillard’s post-political career has so far seen her work with the Global Institute at the King’s College London, Beyond Blue, and promote more women into politics.

Yesterday, Gillard and Stephanie Milione spoke on ABC Radio Melbourne with Jon Faine about the report.

“You really need to have affirmative action initiatives like quotas,” Milione said. “They have mandatory rules so that if we don’t achieve the target or quota, we have to start again.”

“It does make a difference,” Gillard added. “It forces people to look beyond the usual suspects, and back then, the usual suspects tended to be the next credentialed man.”

The full report can be found here. 

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