Zali Steggall: The Olympian turned barrister taking on Tony Abbott

Zali Steggall: The Olympian turned barrister taking on Tony Abbott

Zali Steggall has announced she’ll run as an independent for the blue-ribbon seat of Warringah in Sydney’s north, taking on former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the process.

We profiled Steggall midway through 2018 and have shared part of that Q&A below.

But first up, here’s a little more on who Abbott will be up against.

Steggall was born in the area and brings a huge amount of experience across sport and law to her campaign. She competed at four Winter Olympics during her time as an alpine skier, winning a medal at the 1998 games.

Then after retiring in 2002, she trained to become a barrister specialising in sport and family law, and has taken on a number of leadership roles in sporting organisations ever since — including being one of three members on the Court of Arbitration for Sport tribunal members making an an important decision regarding Russia’s Olympic participation. Steggall continues to live in Warringah with her three children.

A large number of people turned up for Steggall’s campaign launch on Sunday, including supporters, volunteers and the media. A number were also wearing teal-coloured campaign shirts in support.

Steggall said her key concerns include human rights, rising congestion in the community, mental health and domestic violence.

She has shared a list of priorities for her campaign, including climate strategy as well as “business-friendly economy”, protection for the local environment, honesty in politics and treating people with respect. On climate change, she is receiving advice and support from scientist and local resident Tim Flannery.

Steggall said she supports “sensible centre economic politics for a strong, stable economy” and will resist proposed changes to negative gearing, capital gains tax and franking credits.

The announcement comes just weeks after Susan Moylan-Coombs officially threw her hat in the ring, declaring she not only wants Abbott’s seat, but also his job as special convoy on Indigenous Affairs.

The list of independents running against Abbott is likely to grow, but all will have a tough battle ahead. Abbott suffered a 9.2 per cent swing against him at the last election, but still polled 51.6 per cent. ABC election analyst Antony Green has commented that Steggall will have the greatest chance at chasing Abbott’s lead.

Below we’ve shared part of the Q&A we ran with Steggall in 2018, after she completed the ultramarathon race, and have republished what she shared below.

Who and what are you leading right now?

Not really applicable in my work as a barrister but I am also a non executive director of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia and Sports Australia Hall of Fame and enjoy the responsibility of steering those organisations to bigger and better results.

What are you working on right now that’s got you really excited?

As a barrister, I work on many cases at a time and enjoy the challenge of litigation and working with instructing solicitors and clients to get the best possible outcomes.

What one issue is making you really angry right now?

Frustrated that there still isn’t equitable briefing at the bar and that equitable representation at board and executive level still has a long way to go.

Best piece of career advice you ever received?

You can have it all, you just need to know what to prioritise and when, there is a time for everything (career and family) and it is important to enjoy the journey, you don’t get time back!

What would you go back and tell yourself ten years ago?

Enjoy the kids while they are young, they grow up fast. Work out what you enjoy doing and focus on that, and get running, you are going to love the trails!

Biggest hurdle you’ve faced (or are still facing) in your career?

…How did/are you push through/work around it?

I always believe that hard work will get you there. No one achieves anything by accident, it takes planning, hard work and determination when things get tough.

How have mentors or sponsors aided your career?

I have been lucky enough to be exposed to amazing people through my sporting career and legal career. As an athlete and a professional, I always appreciate feedback. You need to be able to take any feedback and criticism and learn and grow from it.

What’s your favourite piece of tech?

My new Garmin Fenix 5. It has really helped me step up my training, collecting a lot more data/metrics than I had before and helps me understand my body and fitness levels better and plan my training accordingly.

What daily publications do you read or follow?

I promise I will read Women’s Agenda from now on!

What apps or tools do you use to help manage your day?

Just the usual, I am not a very tech savvy person.

Any industry associations you’re a part of or that you’d recommend to other women?

Women in Sports Law (WISLAW). is an international, non-profit association that unites women from more than 40 countries who specialize in sports law.

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