27 September 2016
With the ACT election looming, we are meeting the women candidates standing for election for the ACT Legislative Assembly, to learn a bit more about them and their priorities for the community. This week meet Meegan Fitzharris MLA, Member for Molonglo.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a mum of three curious and very individual young kids, a proud Gungahlin resident, an Australian citizen who was born in New Zealand and a bit of a self-confessed policy tragic. I have lived, studied, travelled and worked overseas; I’ve been in the public service; I’ve been a stay-at-home mum; I am a working mum. I value each of these experiences and I bring them all with me into my role in the Legislative Assembly.
What drove you to run for the Legislative Assembly?
The sum of all of my experiences informed my decision to stand for election. I believe everyone should be able to reach their potential in life. I believe we should all be equal, but not the same. I joined Labor because of our party’s modern values of growth, opportunity and fairness. I think Labor governments that combine good economic management and progressive social reform can make powerful and enduring improvements in people’s lives.
The great thing about the Legislative Assembly is that it has a lot of council and state responsibilities and the variety of the two makes for a really interesting role. As Minister for Transport and City Services, for example, I can talk about the playground or footpaths down the road or I can also talk about the importance of a modern, integrated and sustainable transport system that can keep Canberra moving. And I can be part of a progressive Labor government delivering progressive social and economic reforms.
What is something that people may be surprised to know about Yerrabi and what do you see as the key issues facing the electorate?
Yerrabi is home to more Eastern Bettongs than anywhere else in mainland Australia. The amazing team at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary reintroduced them to the mainland this year more than 80 years after they were made extinct by foxes.
Yerrabi is a great and diverse electorate, with established suburbs in Belconnen and suburbs in Gungahlin that range from 25 years old to 25 days old! We have some of the best hiking trails in the ACT and the historic village of Hall is a hidden treasure. We also have some of the best planned and innovative suburbs in Australia. I love this community and enjoy connecting with local residents every day; it’s also a very happy and cheerful community.
The key issues for Yerrabi are to build a connected, healthy and prosperous community; a Government that invests in important community services: health, education, transport and local services. Labor wants to make sure we make the most of everything we love about Canberra, but make it even better.
What are the barriers that you see to gender equality in our community, and how do you propose to address this?
Although barriers remain, women have achieved much in our community and, as an ACT Labor member, I’m proud our party leads the country and our city on the representation of women in the Assembly. As a Mum of two daughters and one son, I hold equal aspirations for all of them and I feel very optimistic about the future for my daughters, built on the many achievements of women of many generations. But there is still work to do.
If I can focus on one barrier in particular and that is recognition of flexible workplaces and flexible careers. We need to do more to unlock the potential of everyone in our community. This needs a range of action, from our education and childcare system, to community, organisational and government leadership. The ACT Government can lead by example to ensure its own workplaces provide this environment, but we need to do more to make it easier for Mums (and Dads) to manage their work and childcare responsibilities. This includes managing childcare and school, as well as making it easier to get to and from work, home, childcare or school. Our transport network matters to making sure we can move easily around our city.
In our election platform we have identified three priority areas which require ongoing action. How do you envisage developing a more inclusive, equitable, Canberra?
ACT Labor has a proud track record in supporting children and young people, reducing gender inequality and violence against women, as well as making community inclusion and equality a priority. And we have proudly led in developing a more inclusive, equitable Canberra.
We delivered the first ever social inclusion statement in our budget last year. I’m also proud we led the nation in raising awareness of violence within families, including funding a full-time Coordinator-General for Family Safety to make sure women and families are safe across Canberra. I am especially interested in finding new and exciting ways to collaborate with the community, private and public sectors. I think there is enormous potential to deepen collaboration and combine investment by all three sectors, especially the private sector, into improving social inclusion. And we are already seeing Canberra organisations stepping up.
What is the change that you are passionate about seeing in Canberra?
I want to see Canberrans lead more active and healthy lives and make it easier to move around the city. We have to make it easier to get to and from home, work, school, sports and cultural events on weekend. Our public transport, cycling, walking and road networks need to make our lives easier, not harder. They especially need to be safe and welcoming for women and girls, especially our public transport networks on cold and dark winter nights.
Our city has so many charms; we have an exceptional quality of life that should be shared with everyone, with many beautiful built and natural places that our community values highly. This is a great city to explore and, whether it’s cycling into town or walking with your kids to school, there are many ways through which Canberrans can lead more active lives.