Accessing the Political Realm: A Chat With Recent Deputy Deputy Lord Mayors, Kate Dewick and Alice Rummery
For many, a career in politics often seems to sit outside the world of job options available to young people. The process of entering the political sector generally feels external to the usual steps of applying for graduate roles, doing interviews, completing internships, writing a great CV, etcetera.
When looking at the politicians you see on TV, the pathways to their positions can appear to be so vast and varied that there’s not one established route. But that doesn’t mean that working in government and setting your sights on the political world is misguided. If anything, the variety of entry points into government makes this goal an achievable one, with the main assets needed being a passion for your community and good ol’ perseverance.
We had a chat with UTS students, Kate Dewick and Alice Rummery, who were two of the five chosen to act as Deputy Deputy Lord Mayors duringthe recent Youth Week. Throughout the week, they accompanied Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Miller to various events, and took part in a round table discussion with Alex Greenwich (Sydney MP), and Councillor Scully about their visions for the future of Sydney.
Sitting down with us, the women reflected on their time with the Deputy Lord Mayor, how the experience altered their career goals, and they gave us their tips on how students and other young people can enter the government and political space.
What originally drew you to apply for the role of Deputy Deputy Lord Mayor?
Alice: I met Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Miller through my advocacy work, and she was very excited to have young people come into her team for Youth Week. I thought that it was a rare and interesting opportunity, and I am always searching for more experience and knowledge of how activists can work towards social justice! I think understanding the political realm is so important, and so this is one of my main reasons for applying.
Kate: When I first learnt of the opportunity, it seemed too good to pass up! I’d been curious about what goes on in Town Hall and this seemed like a pretty good way to check it out – fair to say it was even better than I expected! And the people in there are a lot more accessible than generally believed. A bunch of really cool, approachable councillors who are working hard to make Sydney a great place to live. Being given the power of a voice (or really just the knowledge of one) was empowering and exciting.
What was it like working with a Mayor?
Alice: It was such a valuable and interesting experience working with the Deputy Lord Mayor! I think the main thing that it showed to me is that you don’t have to “fit in a box” to be a successful leader. DLM Jess Miller is such a vivacious and unique person; and it makes her all the more successful in her role!
Kate: The role of a Deputy Lord Mayor involves tight schedules, meetings, attending awesome events, talking to diverse groups of people, discussions, debates and council meetings. And that’s just what I picked up in the few days I spent with Jess!
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being the Deputy Lord Mayor, but I get the impression that there is also a great sense of satisfaction that comes with the ability to speak for the people of this great city and make positive change for them.
What are your main recommendations to the City of Sydney to help make our city more inclusive for young people?
Kate: Continued investment in Youth Services, access to politics and allowing youth to feel heard, and affordability! (Transport, housing, etc.)
Alice: I think that there are extremely high barriers to politics, especially for young people who are experiencing some levels of disadvantage. I believe that in order for policies to be as all-encompassing as possible, all people; genders, religions, sexualities, socio-economic-statuses and lifestyles should be represented in politics. As we know, this is not currently the case.
I think a main reason for this is that young people don’t particularly know that their input is needed, or even wanted (but it is!). This is something that I brought up with the Deputy Lord Mayor, and she agreed that this is a problem that needs to be fixed to increase the level of participation from young people; especially those from more diverse backgrounds.
And your favourite part of the week?
Alice: My favourite part of the week was when I spoke to Alex Greenwich MP, the NSW state member for Sydney, about how the NSW government is approaching zero waste, and how I believe this can be improved.
Kate: Reflecting on the experience, the best part was being given the opportunity to feel a lot more connected to the community we live in. I feel empowered to share my experience and encourage others to become more connected to the city we live in by attending similar events and having their say. I am very grateful for the connections I have made with the Councillors at the City of Sydney and the other Deputy Deputies!
Professionally, what did inhabiting the political space teach you? Maybe your top three takeaways?
1) Remember people’s names (it’s harder than expected)!
2) One of the best ways of understanding how to successfully lead and make an impact is to first understand what people actually need.
3) Go and put yourself out there! It can only benefit you. I was so nervous to apply for this role, but I got it. It is simple: if you don’t apply, you won’t get the opportunity.
1) It seems obvious, but communication in the right form and the right amount is the most powerful change-maker.
2) Saying yes to opportunities is the best way of getting where you want and need to be, even if you don’t know where that is.
3) Empathy is essential.
And on a personal note, I learnt a new found appreciation for our political system and the really genuine people who are trying their best to make a difference for our society and all the diverse groups of people that live in it.
How has the experience impacted your own career plans for the future?
Kate: The experience has definitely made me more aware of the importance of being up-to-date and knowledgeable of the local council and political system, and the decisions they are making on behalf of us. It is too easy to distance yourself from being involved and become complacent with particular members of society dictating the actions of the city. The decisions effect all of us and the people we care about, so it is important to have your say.
Alice: This experience has been very eye opening for me, and it is exciting to think of my future career including working for local government! It reconfirmed my passion for social justice, and how this can be achieved through public policy.
And finally, how can other young people or students make a difference in the political space?
Kate: Make their voice heard, contribute to discussions, get in contact with their local MP. Having open and casual conversations with their friends, peers, colleagues and community can help start actions for things that need to be changed to make Sydney a better place to live.
Starting action yourself is an even better way to make things happen and it’s not nearly as hard as you might think.
Alice: The main thing that I learnt throughout this experience is that politicians really do want to know what you think. If you are passionate about making a change in your community, make connections with your local, state and federal electorate members and let them know what you would like them to work towards, or what you want changed.
By Mia Casey