Nicolle Flint is the first woman to have represented the federal seat of Boothby since it was established in 1903. She was initially elected in 2016, then re-elected in 2019.
In a recent chat at Women for Election Australia’s October ‘In Conversation’ event, Nicolle opened up about some of the causes she is passionate about, like raising awareness and improving outcomes for those suffering with endometriosis, and bettering the treatment of all women in politics.
She also let us in on some of the very public challenges she’s faced along the way.
Nicolle has been open about her battle with stage four endometriosis and one of the things she’s most proud of is working with clinicians, patient advocate groups & and her parliamentary colleagues across party lines to launch the first-ever National Action Plan for Endometriosis.
“In 2017, I heard the Labor Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, giving a speech on endo. I literally chased her out of the Chamber down the hallway to say, ‘Excuse me, I’m Nicole, I’m brand-new, and we have to do something about this’,” she said.
“Gai and I formed the Parliamentary Friends of Endometriosis Awareness. And by the end of that year, we’d convinced our respective Health Ministers to take action.
“From the very beginning, Minister for Health Greg Hunt apologised on behalf of successive governments just for the pain and suffering that women have gone through unrecognised and unacknowledged for generations. And he also said that we would get a national action plan process, which was complete within a year.”
“On the on the issue of stillbirth, my good friend, Senator Jim Molan, spoke about it in the party room. And I jumped up and said, this is a really important issue, and we’re not doing enough. Anyone who has gone through the tragedy of having a baby born still or someone within their family knows how utterly devastating it is for people. The fact that we lose over 2000 babies a year who were born still: that’s double the national road toll.
“We all know how to stay safe on the road, right? But women aren’t told the basics. And there are some really easy things you can do, from sleeping on your side to monitoring your baby’s movements.”
“There are a lot of different ways that you end up working with people in Parliament. But there is a lot more we do on a bipartisan basis than you would ever know through the media, who don’t tend to report on the happy, cooperative stories.”
Nicolle also spoke about the intimidating behaviour she faced during her 2019 re-election campaign, and what drove her to don a garbage bag (attracting international attention in the process), after a journalist devoted a significant portion of their column to criticising her appearance.
“In the scheme of things I’ve been through, that was at the very lower end,” said Nicolle. “But I just got so angry, because it was the last of a long line of ways that I’ve been attacked as a woman.
“So I shot a video saying, ‘What am I supposed to do, wear a garbage bag?’ Like most professional women, you put so much time and energy into making sure you’re dressed appropriately, that you’re not going to offend anyone, that you’re not going to distract people. So that anyone can come and talk to me; and that I look professional, so that people realise I take my role seriously.
“I honestly thought in the year 2020 that we didn’t need to put up with this stuff anymore. I thought if I don’t call this out, then it will happen to other women. I was so grateful and encouraged to see former Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaking in interviews that she’s given around the release of her new book, saying she wished she had called out the commentary about her dress and appearance, because maybe it would have stopped another female member of Parliament being attacked.”
“It’s just unacceptable to judge women like that. I want to be judged on the work I do for my electorate, on the policies I’ve implemented during my time in Parliament. Judge me on what I do, not what I look like.”
You can watch the full conversation between Nicolle Flint and Licia Heath here: