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Mentor match: an interview with Senator Janet Rice and Dr Judy Tang

Head and shoulder photos of Judy Tang and Janet Rice agains a dark blue background

Through the Pathways Alum Mentoring Program, mentors from across the political spectrum are matched to Pathways to Politics alums to further empower and support them to actualise their political aspirations. Mentors provide practical support around potential election strategies, a safe space for discussion, problem solving and motivation.

Photo of Janet Rice smiling against a backround of greenery and purple flowers

Senator Janet Rice has been a Greens Senator for Victoria since 2014. Prior to joining Parliament, Janet was a councillor and Mayor of the City of Maribyrnong. She is one of the founding members of the Victorian Greens. Janet has supported the Pathways Alum Mentoring program as a mentor since 2020.

Photo of Dr Judy Tang smiling, wearing a blue blazer

Dr Judy Tang is a current Board Director for the Victorian Pride Centre and is one of Victoria’s 12 Multicultural Commissioners at the Victorian Multicultural Commission. Judy is an alum of the 2021 University of Melbourne Pathways to Politics Program for Women and participated as a mentee in the Pathways Alum Mentoring program in 2022.

“I think how much I would have benefited from having a mentor, and how perhaps I wouldn’t second guess myself in the same way if I’d had that kind of critical friend.”

– Senator Janet Rice

Judy: I developed an interest in activism and politics a bit later on in life. I felt like being in politics was one of the most important ways to really make a difference, especially at the systemic level. Taking part in Pathways to Politics was a life-changing learning experience, especially being in the mentoring program.

One of the things that I’ve appreciated the most about spending time with Janet is being able to really understand the ecosystem and inner workings of politics, what a career in politics could look like for me, and the work it would involve.

Janet: I’m always up for mentoring anyone that wants to be more actively involved in progressive issues in general, and Greens politics in particular, having devoted more than 30 years of my life to the getting the Greens up and running and building the party, and seeing it become such an incredibly important vehicle for change.

Judy and I had some initial chats about her having joined the party and her aspirations. The opportunity to mentor Judy became a continuation of that conversation, sharing information and also learning from her, that two-way learning experience.

Judy: I was really lucky because I started the mentorship program during the Federal and Victorian State elections. There were things I don’t think I’d have been able to learn unless an election was actually happening. It was on the ground, you know – learning right there on the front lines.

It’s definitely made me more confident. One of the most fun things was getting to meet all the other political parties during the Federal election. It was fascinating to see how everything plays out during an election, and I know it will make it easier for me to navigate in the future.

Janet: Judy was very forward-thinking in planning her engagement with the Greens. Quite a lot of our conversations have been about the politicised nature of governments and how, by being identified as a Green, that impacts the rest of your life. Judy has to manage the dual world of being a well-recognized, high profile person in the non-political realm, but once she’s out as an active Greens member, some of the other opportunities in her life may dry up.

It’s a huge challenge, and something that can be hard to talk to people about confidentially. The mentor relationship means you can have this trusted relationship with somebody that’s inside the same party as you.

Judy: It’s been so valuable to be able to talk to Janet about the trajectory of my involvement in politics, getting to be really vulnerable and open about my personal interests and goals, and how that aligns with my potential political career.

Dr Judy Tang wearing a pink blazer, delivering a speech in parliamentary chambers
Judy Tang delivering her stump speech during the Pathways to Politics “Speeches in Parliament” module, 2022

Janet: I also think how much I would have benefited from having a mentor, and how perhaps I wouldn’t second guess myself in the same way if I’d had that kind of critical friend. I think back to when I worked in the environment movement as a woman in my early twenties. Quite a senior job opportunity came up, but I decided I wouldn’t apply for it because I thought I was too inexperienced and too young. If I’d had a mentor supporting me and having my back, I’m sure they absolutely would have convinced me to go for it.

Judy: I would recommend the mentorship program simply because it really helps move things forward, there’s no reinventing the wheel. Having someone as a mentor, especially someone that’s as amazing as Janet, means that you can hear all the things they’ve learned through their careers. That’s how we progress and get on with things.

Janet: Judy and I have a warm friendship, it’s always fun – never a dull moment when we catch up!

Judy: I always feel very energized coming out of our discussions. And even though I have a lot of things on my plate after every conversation with Janet, I suddenly have more energy to add more plates!

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