New ABC series explores the experiences of women in politics

The ABC launches a new series Ms Represented this evening telling the story of women in politics.

Joining host Annabel Crabb to look through history and share their own experiences are women from across the political divide including Julia Gillard, Julie Bishop, Natasha Stott Despoja, Sarah Hanson-Young, Bronwyn Bishop, Ros Kelly, Marise Payne and many others.

“Australia was the first independent nation in the world where women could both vote and run for Parliament,” says Crabb. “But it took us a long time to actually elect any women, and when we did, we expected them to fit into the system that was already there. The struggle of female parliamentarians to be heard, to be respected, and to prosper in our federal Parliament is a thrilling and inspiring one, full of extraordinary stories that our cast tell with grace, humour and the deep authority of experience.”

“This is not ancient history. Many women who are “firsts” in politics are still actually in parliament. The first Indigenous woman in the House of Representatives was born into a country where her father’s people still could not enroll to vote. The story of women in parliament is a living, changing thing. In Ms Represented, we’ve captured a draft of it.”

In the first episode of the series we discover the stories of women like Joan Pilone, who was the first women to be elected to serve on the City of Sydney council in 1965.  Vida Goldstein, who unsuccessful ran for parliament several times in the early 1900’s and Joan Child, the first Labor MP in the House of Representatives.

Comfortingly the crew also look at the Hansard transcripts of the debate over whether aboriginal people should be given the right to vote. A right that was not achieved until 1962.

Former Liberal senator Kathryn Sullivan shares that when she ran for parliament in 1970’s party leaders ordered her to grown her hair longer, avoid wearing shorter skirts, and stop wearing fashionable boots in public. Then they suggested she change her name to Kathy so she sounded “less stuck-up”.

For Judith Troeth who was a Liberal senator from 1983 to 2011 she experienced the opposite demand, and was banned from referring to herself  as Judy.

Many of the stories are hard to take seriously, but they lay bare the expectation of women in parliament. A tale of how Julia Gillard was photographed at home with an empty fruit bowl in the background, which lead to an in-depth an analysis of her marital status and lack of children, is just one example.

The series kicks off on the ABC at 8:00pm tonight, and runs for four weeks. Running alongside the TV series is a podcast hosted by Crabb and comedian Steph Tinsdale. 

OIP Staff

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