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Alumni of the 2022 Pathways to Politics program (from left to right) Mariam Riza, Binda Gokhale, Nathalie Farah, Cr Bernadette Hogan, Nicola Foxworthy, Cr Angelica Panopoulos, and Akuch Anieth.

Changing the face
of politics

Australia, like many countries around the world, has historically faced issues of female underrepresentation at local, state and federal levels of government. Determined to redress this imbalance, the Pathways to Politics program is equipping women with the skills, knowledge, confidence and networks to run for elected office and thrive as political leaders.

For Juliana Addison MP, Member for Wendouree in the Victorian Parliament, the Pathways to Politics program provided the essential support and mentoring she needed to run for office in 2018.

“This program is crucial,” she said. “It made such a difference to have incredible women from across the political spectrum encouraging me. And more women in parliament better reflects our community’s values and experiences.”

Juliana is one of the 19 alumni of the Pathways to Politics program who ran in the 2022 Victorian election, and one of six successfully elected to the upper and lower houses across five parties.

The Pathways to Politics Program for Women is a non-partisan initiative made possible by the vision and generosity of founder Carol Schwartz AO, Chair of Trawalla Foundation and Women’s Leadership Institute Australia.

Modelled on Harvard University’s successful political training program ‘From Harvard Square to the Oval Office’, the Pathways to Politics program provides hands-on training and networking opportunities for women, female-identifying, and non-binary people who aspire to elected office.


Participants in the program have the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by guest presenters from all sides of politics, including sitting and retired politicians, public speaking professionals, campaign strategists, advisers, public policy experts, and leading figures in Australian political and public life.

Since its launch in 2016, the program has realised significant impact in advancing female political participation, with 28 electoral successes achieved nationally across the political spectrum at all levels of government.

Bridget Vallence MP, State Member for Evelyn, was also successfully re-elected in 2022 and applauds the program for providing women with the confidence to pursue careers in politics, despite the well-documented obstacles they can face.


“The program is candid about how challenging it is being in politics,” Vallence said. “It shows how women, regardless of political persuasion, experience common challenges and can work together to break down these barriers.”

In 2022, the program reached another significant milestone with the launch of its Pathways to Politics Knowledge Hub, a free online platform providing a range of online resources to support women and gender diverse people to run for office.


The initiative is the founding program in the national Pathways to Politics network, with partner programs at Queensland University of Technology, University of New South Wales and Charles Darwin University.

In 2023, the program will expand further into the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia, with the University of Canberra and University of Adelaide joining the national network. Universities in Western Australia and Tasmania are expected to follow in the coming years to make it a fully national program.

Pathways to Politics highlights the University’s commitment to advancing policy discussion and debate, and recognises that central to this is a diversity of views in the public realm.

Carol Schwartz believes that the collaboration with university partners has been critical to the program’s success and pays recognition to the University of Melbourne as an excellent founding partner.

“This is about optimising outcomes for our country by ensuring that men and women together share power, leadership and decision making,” she said. “Having a record 19 of our alum run in the 2022 state election is a wonderful step towards that ultimate goal.”

“Together with our other university partners, we have built a program that is literally changing the face of Australian politics.”

Banner image: Alumni of the 2022 Pathways to Politics program (from left to right) Mariam Riza, Binda Gokhale, Nathalie Farah, Cr Bernadette Hogan, Nicola Foxworthy, Cr Angelica Panopoulos, and Akuch Anieth. Image: Supplied

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