In the penultimate episode of our Policy Forum Pod mini-series on leadership and democracy, Natasha Stott Despoja – former Senator for South Australia and member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – joins us to discuss women in leadership in Australia.

Australia is still a long way from reaching gender parity in politics, with the country ranking 51st in terms of the percentage of parliamentarians who are women. Revelations throughout 2021 have also shone a light on the serious, disturbing challenges facing women in parliament, and the toxic culture that’s been allowed to flourish. With research showing few are interested in a career in politics, how can policymakers ensure that there are pathways into politics for young women? What needs to change to ensure women in parliament are safe and respected? And how can greater diversity in parliament drive both policy and cultural change across the country? On this episode of Policy Forum Pod, Natasha Stott Despoja AO joins Professor Sharon Bessell and Dr Arnagretta Hunter to discuss women’s political leadership in Australia, talk through some of the challenges, and chart ways forward.

Natasha Stott Despoja AO is the founding Chair of the Board of Our Watch, a foundation to prevent violence against women and their children, and was previously the Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls. She was Senator for South Australia representing the Australian Democrats from 1995 to 2008.

Sharon Bessell is Professor of Public Policy and Director of Gender Equity and Diversity at Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU.

Arnagretta Hunter is a cardiologist, physician, and a Senior Clinical Lecturer for ANU Medical School.

Want to hear more from our mini-series on leadership? In the first episode, historians Chris Wallace and Frank Bongiorno join us to examine the resistance to change among Australia’s political class and whether the country’s current crop of leaders are up to the task of providing good governance.

On the final episode in the series, author and former senator Scott Ludlam joins us to discuss challenging the political status quo and why more distributed forms of leadership might be an effective way to create change.

Policy Forum Pod is available on AcastApple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherSubscribe on Android or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or join us on the Facebook group.

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