About Pathways to Politics for Women

Photo of 17 diverse women wearing colourful business dress, standing on the steps of a parliamentary building
University of Canberra cohort 2023

Pathways to Politics for Women is increasing the number of women in Australian politics by equipping diverse women to boldly embrace their political ambitions, thrive as leaders and make a profound contribution to society.

Through comprehensive practical training, workshops, mentoring and career-long support, we provide unparalleled expertise for women who are serious about driving change through political leadership.

  • Australia’s most comprehensive and award-winning political training program
  • Learn to be the politician you want to be in a safe, inclusive space
  • Help shape Australia’s political landscape
  • Accessible, diverse and fully funded

Applications for our 2024 intake have now closed. Please join our Expressions of Interest list to be notified when applications open for our 2025 programs.

Programs are open to women across Australia. Program participation is fully funded through the generous support of philanthropic and university partners.

The proudly non-partisan programs are uniquely designed in collaboration with eight leading universities across Australia, tailored to each local context.

Note: Pathways to Politics embraces an inclusive definition of ‘women’, acknowledging the diversity of women we work with and aim to support, including cisgender and transgender women, and non-binary people.

What to expect

Participants will gain first-hand insights from prominent politicians, advisors, speechwriters, and media trainers to give you confidence and clarity about your future in politics.

You will be supported to realise your capabilities through practical workshops and exercises provided in a respectful and supported environment – for example through media and campaign training, and delivering a speech in parliament.

Modules cover topics such as:

  • political vision
  • campaign planning
  • media training
  • speechwriting
  • leadership skills

Program delivery differs between programs. Some programs are delivered as full-time, face-to-face intensives over the course of a week. Others are delivered part-time across three to four months, and may be delivered as a mixture face-to-face and online sessions.

A group of 11 diverse women smile and pose for a photo outside, trees in the background.
UNSW Pathways to Politics cohort, 2023

“Pathways to Politics doesn’t just bewail the undersupply of women in public office: it takes practical steps to address the problem, equipping women with the skills and confidence to get involved….It’s an invaluable down-payment on a better kind of politics.

Annabel Crabb

“I originally said I wouldn’t run for council, well today I nominated for council. It’s hard to explain but the influence, support I received from the other participants has sparked something in me.” 

Deanne Rioli, Council Member for the Tiwi Islands Regional Council, Pirlangimpi Ward, and Pathways to Politics alum

Find out more about the program in your state or territory

Our programs are uniquely designed in collaboration with eight of Australia’s leading universities and tailored to your local context.

For more detailed information about the program in your state or territory, please visit their website:

In the last eight years Pathways to Politics has helped hundreds of women to run for office and achieved 47 electoral successes nationally across the political spectrum and at all levels of government.

The majority of alums intend to run for elected office in the next ten years.

“As a participant in the Pathways to Politics program, I can confidently say that it has been a transformative experience…Thanks to this program, I’ve acquired valuable knowledge, established meaningful connections, and developed the confidence to lead with courage.”

Sue-Anne Hunter, Yoorrook Justice Commissioner and Pathways to Politics alum
Pathways to Politics has seen 47 electoral successes since 2016.
26 Pathways to Politics alums ran in the 2024 Queensland local elections.
13 were elected.
More than 50 Pathways to Politics alums are expected to run in local and state elections in 2024.

Pathways to Politics is an initiative of the Trawalla Foundation, Women’s Leadership Institute Australia and the University of Melbourne.

Inspired by the Harvard Kennedy School’s From Harvard Square to the Oval Office practicum, Pathways to Politics was initiated through the vision of Carol Schwartz AO, Chair of the Trawalla Foundation, who fundamentally believes in the value of more female leaders. For Carol this is about optimising outcomes for our country by ensuring that men and women together share power, leadership and decision making.

The foundational Pathways to Politics program launched at the University of Melbourne in 2016, followed by programs at QUT in 2019, UNSW in 2021, Charles Darwin University in 2022, the University of Adelaide and University of Canberra in 2023, and The University of Western Australia and University of Tasmania in 2024.

This network is led by the National Co-Convenors Sarah Buckley, CEO of the Trawalla Foundation, and Dr Meredith Martin, Director of the University of Melbourne’s Pathways to Politics program. Each state/territory program also receives strategic support and guidance from a local steering or advisory committee, drawing on the expertise of senior university representatives, politicians and Pathways to Politics alums.

“Pathways to Politics takes a pragmatic and practical approach. It identifies the issues and barriers almost all women face to entering politics, and provides brilliant and nuanced advice to overcome them…The course is a must for any woman who has political ambitions.” 

Charlotte Mortlock, Founder of Hilma’s Network, and Pathways to Politics alum

“Pathways to Politics was so much more than an information course. It was a dynamic platform to explore my strengths, overcome my doubts, and give me the practical skills needed to run a political contest. Most importantly, it connected me to a network of talented, motivated and inspiring women who have been there for me long after the final session.”

Kat Theophanous MP, Labor Member for Northcote and Pathways to Politics alum

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“I wouldn’t be embarking on this incredible journey if I didn’t take part in the program. Pathways helped me understand what I perceived weaknesses were actually strengths. More compassion in politics is only a good thing.”

– Georgie Purcell MP, member of the Legislative Council for Northern Victoria
Slide 1

“As a woman currently working in politics, I found the program was targeted, purpose-driven, and gave me tangible skills and a strong support network to pursue a future in politics in a strategic and informed way. The program also expanded my current understanding and capabilities within the field to empower and help educate other women around me to chase their dreams of becoming an MP.”

– Savanna Peake, UNSW Pathways to Politics alum
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“I was determined to run in the upcoming Federal Senate election, fully committed to serving the people of Queensland. The Pathways to Politics for Women program reaffirmed my dedication to this cause. With the newfound resolve I have gained from the program, I am prepared to translate my passion into tangible improvements for every Queenslander.”

– Sophia Li, LNP Federal Senate Candidate & QUT Pathways to Politics alum
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“It can seem impossible for some people who have not grown up in political families, parties or activist groups to see themselves within the hallowed halls of power. It can be a long and lonely road that’s difficult to navigate without networks, mentors and the tools to help realise your ambition. It can even be harder for women who have traditionally not had access to the same wealth as men to fund campaigns. Pathways to Politics helps to break down those barriers and give you the knowledge and the confidence to put yourself forward for leadership positions.”

The Hon Lara Giddings AO, former Premier of Tasmania
Four women stand posing in parliamentary chamber with green carpet and wooden panelling.
Guest judges at the University of Melbourne’s “Speeches in Parliament” session, 2023: Julianna Addison MP (Labor Member for Wendouree), Samantha Ratnam MP (Leader of the Victorian Greens), Bridget Vallence MP (Liberal Member for Evelyn), Dr Helen Haines (Independent Member for Indi).

Founding Partners

University Partners