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Recommendations for your pathway to politics: Donisha Duff

Photo of Donisha Duff wearing a red blazer and smiling
In this blog series, we ask our alums to tell us about their personal ‘pathway to politics’ and provide their recommendations for content that will help support, guide, inspire and engage other women on their political journey.

Donisha Duff, ALP Candidate for Bowman (Federal)

For me, the decision to run for politics was personal. It is based on wanting to effect positive change for my family and community. 

I wasn’t born into a family that was politically savvy. As a young girl, I didn’t understand politics.  As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, we were excluded from places and positions of power.

I’m originally from Thursday Island in the Torres Straits. My family are Wuthathi Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Cape York, with familial links to Moa and Badu Islands. I grew up on country with a strong sense of family, community, culture and identity.

I spent most of my schooling years on the mainland, as the only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in my class in primary school, high school and University.

I’m the second person in my family to graduate with a degree from university and the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person to graduate with a Masters of Business Administration from the Australian National University (ANU). Being first-in-family, I wanted to help others achieve these outcomes. I was one of the founding members and am the Chair of Stars Foundation Ltd, delivering school-based engagement programs to young First Nations women. I’m also the Chief Operations Officer of one of Australia’s largest primary health organisations. 

It was my experience working as Adviser (2009-2013) to the first Minister for Indigenous Health, the Hon Warren Snowdon MP, that really sparked my interest in politics. Engaging with stakeholders to make real changes was incredibly satisfying.  The experience started me seriously thinking about running as a candidate.

I applied for the QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program in February 2021. Shortly after, I applied for preselection and was successful in being endorsed as the Federal Labor Candidate for Bowman, the electorate where my family have lived for over 30 years. 

My candidacy was announced by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese in April 2021. I’m still working full time and campaigning on weekends and afterhours. It’s a very demanding balance, particularly with a young child and in the middle of a pandemic!

But I’ve been greatly supported by my former boss, Warren Snowdon MP, and other members of parliament who remember me from my previous work.  I’m supported by Emily’s List Australia and am very grateful to have former Senator Claire Moore as my mentor.

My recommended reading

For those of you who are interested in First Nations/gender equity and seeking to effect change, I strongly recommend the following speeches and books:

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech (1992)

An absolute landmark speech for Australia. It has great meaning for First Nation’s people, as the Prime Minister acknowledged the dispossession and neglect faced by First Nations’ people as the result of colonisation.

Watch the Redfern Address

Paul Keating delivering the Redfern speech

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Sorry Speech (2008)
On 13 February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, particularly to the Stolen Generations whose lives had been blighted by past government policies of forced child removal and Indigenous assimilation. The journey to national apology began with the Bringing Them Home report.

Watch Kevin Rudd’s “Sorry Speech”

Julia Gillard & Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (2020) Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons

An analysis of the influence of gender on women’s access to positions of leadership, the perceptions of them as leaders, the trajectory of their leadership and the circumstances in which it comes to an end. It provides an agenda for change that allows women to take control and combat gender bias.

Find the book online

Cover of the book "Women and Leadership"

Kate Ellis (2021) Sex, Lies and Question Time

A raw and frank look at life as a woman in politics. Former Minister Kate Ellis interviewed women from across the chambers about their experiences. A great reminder why we desperately need diversity in Parliament.

Find the book online

Cover of the book "Sex, Lies and Question Time"

Related Alums

Smiling photo of Donisha Duff wearing a red blazer, green foliage behind her.
2021 Alum (Queensland)

Donisha Duff OAM

Donisha Duff

Donisha Duff OAM is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman from Thursday Island, Torres Strait.  Her family are Aboriginal (Wuthathi) traditional owners of Eastern Cape York and she also has familial links to Badu, Moa & Mabuiag Islands in the Torres Strait. Donisha is the inaugural CEO of Queensland Indigenous Business Network, an independent representative body created to provide a strong and unified voice for Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses. She is also Chair of Stars Foundation Ltd.

Donisha ran as the ALP Candidate for Bowman in the 2022 Federal election. In 2024 she received the Order of Australia Medal for service to the community.

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