Congratulations to Labor MP and Shadow Minister for Education and Women, Tanya Plibersek who this week became the longest serving woman in Australia’s House of Representatives.
First elected as the MP for Sydney in 1998, Plibersek has tirelessly worked with people in her local community to push for positive change across a range of areas and sectors.
Speaking yesterday to 2GB Radio, she reflected that “The things that motivated me then still motivate me”.
“I got into politics because I want everybody to have what I want for myself and my kids – decent job security, a roof over my head”, she said.
Colleague and friend, Labor Senator Penny Wong acknowledged Plibersek’s achievement, tweeting that she “was an inspiration to many”.
During the years of the Howard Government, Plibersek campaigned for social justice reform on issues such as paid parental leave, fairer rights at work and rights for same-sex couples.
A staunch advocate for gender equality, she convened the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children in May 2008, and released the National Council’s Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children in March 2009.
As Minister for Health, she introduced free Gardasil vaccinations to protect against cancers caused by HPV to all boys and girls – a world first initiative. She also approved listing of the abortion drug RU-486 on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), describing the provision of the medicine as “a good thing in the situation where women are faced with one of the most difficult decisions that they will ever make”
Noting her milestone tenure, Plibersek told 2GB “it’s a fantastic privilege to be reelected by my constituents in Sydney. What a democracy we have. My parents literally grew up in huts with dirt floors … what other country in the world would have given me these opportunities?”
In 2017, the year Donald Trump was elected US President, Plibersek spoke on a panel at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards, urging women to remain true to themselves, rather than to try and fit a mould. “I hate all those books at airports about the qualities of effective leadership. All of that is bullshit,” she said. “Women need to be authentically themselves and make the structures around them change.”
When Plibersek was asked about the most “disruptive” thing she had ever done in politics, she further elaborated on the idea of authenticity. “Just trying to be the human being I actually am, rather than fit into an organisation that didn’t suit who I was.”