Home' In The City : Canberra Style - Spring Summer 2012 Contents Katy Gallagher
ACT Chief Minister
It's been a busy 17 months for ACT
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.
Since taking the reins of the ACT
government in May last year, it's been
a grueling, busy time for the mum of
three but it's something she's relishing.
"I feel comfortable in it now. It took a few
months to get my head around things, as it
does with any new job anywhere. But I feel the
past few months have been my best yet."
Canberra born and bred, Katy's political
destiny started at a young age during her time
at Melrose High School and Stirling College
and continued with a politics degree at the
Australian National University.
Roles with the Community and Public
Sector Union continued the journey, along
with a decade in various roles in a Jon
Stanhope-led Labor government, including
as deputy chief minister for five years. Katy's
ascendancy to the top job was completed
when Stanhope retired in May last year.
But it was a destiny that almost didn't
Katy freely admits to playing the "token
woman" role in ACT Labor's campaign during
the 2001 election in an attempt to boost
female numbers in the Legislative Assembly.
"I wasn't meant to win, I genuinely didn't
think I would win," she laughed.
And she nearly didn't. Katy won just
4.38 per cent of the first preference vote but
following the distribution of preferences, she
was elected as the fifth member of the seat of
"I won by 70 votes. That's 70 out of
about 90,000 votes. I had no idea what I was
going to do and it stayed that way for a few
Although Katy is responsible for a number
of portfolios, including health and industrial
relations, she still aims to continue her family
duties and responsibilities.
"I'm a working mum, I still make the
lunchboxes for my kids, I do the washing, I
take the kids where they need to go and at the
same time I'm the chief minister," she said.
"It's more public than the average day job.
People see me on the TV and they may think
I lead a different life to them but I still do the
school run and all the other things.
"I'm proud of where I live but at the same
time I'm just a mum at the school disco and
at school events. I don't like being away from
the family and if I was in federal politics I
don't think I could do it."
Katy has been quick to show the strengths
of female leaders and politicians after recent
incidences of gender-based comments in the
She has shared a stage with Prime Minister
Julia Gillard and social commentator Jane
Caro in a discussion about powerful women
and their role in politics, while she has been
an outspoken critic of radio host Alan Jones.
"Canberra has always been ahead of the
game, it's not unusual to have women in
higher positions, the first chief minister was
female and I'm the third female chief minister
in just over 20 years," she said.
"It's generally accepted that politics is still
a man's world but it's definitely changing.
"A lot of politics is now very personal and it
does make me pull back a bit but you run the risk
of seeming weak if you don't enter the game.
"The nature of campaigning during
elections is very confrontational and I don't
think that plays to women's strengths in
"My style is less confrontational and more
personal. My opponents are who they are and
I don't seek to blame them or point the finger.
My style has been endorsed at three different
elections now and people have told me to
change it but I won't."
As campaigning draws to an end and an
election nears, Katy is philosophical about her
performance in the chief minister's position.
"It's been a challenge but it's one that I
think we've succeeded in," she said.
"I feel like I've been able to make (the job)
my own and it would be great to carry on.
"To those who want to enter politics, you
can't just be a general branch member who is
moaning about how things are going. You have
ACT Greens MLA
It's not every day you meet a Bollywood
dancing politician who has been on
Australia's Got Talent but Greens MLA
Amanda Bresnan is a different kind of
"I went to India a few years ago
Strong female politicians are an established part of Canberra's political arenas. RICHARD FOX
speaks to five women on balancing family lives, media jibes and their inspirations.
Women of Style
"I'm a working mum, I still make the lunchboxes for my
kids, I do the washing, I take the kids where they need to
go and at the same time I'm the chief minister."
and I found it to be a magical place, it really
is the best and worst of humanity all in one
place," she said.
"I found Bollywood dancing and loved it
and have been dancing since then. We went
on Australia's Got Talent as a group, it was
good fun actually.
"Travelling to somewhere like that gave
me a lot of confidence and taught me to
appreciate things. We are very lucky to live in
a place like Canberra, to be able to vote and to
Born and raised in Brisbane, Amanda
headed south to become part of the ACT
government's graduate program and later
became a senior policy officer at ACT Health.
She went on to become a director of policy
at the Mental Health Council of Australia
and has continued to push for better mental
health facilities during her time in the ACT
"It's such a key part of public policy
that has been neglected for so long and I
will continue to raise the profile of such an
important sector," Amanda said.
Engaging the next generation of voters
is an important role for Amanda -- who ran
for the federal seat of Canberra at the 2007
election -- and she feels strong female role
models are essential.
"My mum was very open about her political
views and when the Greens came around, their
ideas and values interested me," she said.
"[Former ACT Greens MLA] Kerrie Tucker
was a big role model for me, she has also
given me some great advice along the way too.
I also look up to Hillary Clinton. She is such a
"I admire women who inspire."
Four years on from entering the
Legislative Assembly and on the eve
of an election, Amanda is proud of her
"I'm proud of being elected, it's very hard
work and a demanding job but it's worth it,"
"When I was elected, my mum rang a
couple of weeks later and said "You're a
politician now" and it was only then that it
"It's not a job you can prepare for but it's
a job that grows on you."
canberra style | SPRING/SUMMER 2012
Links Archive In The City - Spring 2012 In the City - Summer 2012 Edition Navigation Previous Page Next Page