Meet the Candidates: an evening of discussion and debate

16 September 2016

Courtney Lawler

Courtney Lawler is YWCA Canberra's Communication & Events Coordinator.

On the evening of Thursday 9 September, members of the ACT community came together at YWCA House for a unique opportunity to meet the candidates.

More than 40 YWCA Canberra members and friends spent the evening chatting to 20 of the women standing for election to the ACT Legislative Assembly.

With representatives from the Canberra Liberals, ACT Labor, the ACT Greens, Like Canberra, and one independent, there was a candidate for everyone and energetic conversation aplenty.

The event was opened by YWCA Canberra Executive Director, Frances Crimmins, who highlighted the need for more women in politics. Frances noted that across State and Territory Governments, women hold only 27 per cent of Ministry positions.

“In the ACT, we fare slightly better” said Frances, “with women accounting for 35 per cent of MLA’s” – but we have a long way to go before equality is achieved.

Frances also discussed the enduring gender pay gap, and spoke proudly of the suite of leadership programs offered by YWCA Canberra that are designed to address the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles.

It was then time for a brief introductory speech by a representative from each party – starting with ACT Greens Candidate for Kurrajong, Rebecca Vassarotti.

Rebecca told the audience that more than half of the ACT Greens candidates are women, referring to her women colleagues as a “feminist dream team”. We were then thrilled to hear that the Greens have pledged $2 million to primary prevention services in ACT schools, with a vision to eliminate violence against women.

Next up, Canberra Liberals Member for Brindabella, Nicole Lawder, spoke about what her party will do to improve the lives of Canberra families.

In the second exciting announcement for the evening, Nicole told the audience that, if elected, the Canberra Liberals would provide $250,000 over four years to the YWCA Clubhouse, an innovative learning space for young people in Tuggeranong to explore science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM).

Independent Candidate for Ginninderra, Leigh Watson, then took to the stage, speaking from the heart about the impact that housing affordability can have on people’s lives.

Leigh highlighted the fact that the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia are older women, and told the audience that this is something our politicians must come together to fix.

The youngest candidate in attendance, Like Canberra Candidate for Yerrabi, Casey Heffernan, told the audience that while she is young, she strives to understand all of the challenges that Canberrans face.

Casey said that she believes that the best thing you can do to improve the lives of Canberrans is to enable people to pursue their goals, especially members of the community who may have had limited opportunities.

Last, but certainly not least, ACT Labor Candidate for Brindabella, Angie Drake, spoke about Labor’s long-standing commitment to supporting women in the ACT community.

Angie reflected on her personal experience of being a woman in politics, and paid homage to former ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher.

We then moved on to the portion of the evening our attendees were waiting for – the speed networking session.

In small groups, attendees spent the next hour rotating around the room, with 6 minutes to chat to each candidate, and ask questions about key policies and plans.

There was laughter, friendly interrogation, and, of course, lively debate! It was fantastic to see local politics in action, with the candidates doing their best to convince voters that their party would create the most positive change in the ACT.

It was excellent to hear many of the attendees and candidates discussing issues addressed in our election platform, Every Woman, Every Child, Every Day, including greater support for children and young people, work to reduce gender inequality and violence against women, and prioritising community inclusion.

The evening didn’t end when the networking rounds finished – our attendees and candidates simply had too much to talk about! The event was also a great opportunity for YWCA Canberra members and friends to network with each other – we love getting the Y community together.

We would like to extend our thanks to all of the candidates who took part in the event – Angie Drake, Nicole Lawder MLA, Tara Cheyne, Denise Fisher, Leigh Watson, Rebecca Vassarotti, Jill Thomsen, Leah Dwyer, Rachel Stephen-Smith, Candice Burch, Brooke Curtin, Elizabeth Lee, Emma Davidson, Jennifer Newman, Veronica Wensing, Meegan Fitzharris MLA, and Casey Heffernan – and to everyone who came along.

You can read more about these candidates, and others, and their vision for the ACT in our Meet a Candidate blog series, and keep up to date with YWCA Canberra’s election commentary by following #Everywoman16.

You can see more great snaps from the event on our Flickr.


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