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Recommendations for your pathway to politics: Sarina Kilham

Photo of Sarina Kilham against a white background, overlaid text says "NSW State Election 2023"
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.
In March we spotlight alums running in the New South Wales State election.

Sarina Kilham, Independent candidate for Heffron

I’ve got multiple origin stories as an Independent political candidate. All of them are true – just some have been on the burner longer than others. Looking back, it’s been a stacking and layering of events, emotions, experience and knowledge to bring me here. 

I’ve always had a strong sense of social justice (Year 4 me wrote a letter to my teacher asking him to stop reading sexist storybooks in class!) and fresh out of uni I worked for the United Nations Mission in East Timor.

More recently, I was targeted by a Facebook ad in 2021 from Women for Election Australia offering a one day workshop on learning how to run for local government, and I thought, ‘Why not attend?’ I had this incredible epiphany at the workshop – normal, everyday women can run for election. There are rules, but if you know the rules, you can run. You don’t need to be part of a secret, invites-only elite club, which is how I’d perceived politicians before then. 

A group of us at the workshop got quite angry once we realised the cost of running a campaign and the privilege that it involves. We’ve still got a long way to go in Australia to change how our parliaments look. For example, in NSW you can’t claim childcare as an election expense, but you can claim the purchase of an aircraft!

Candidate Sarina Kilham with husband, two young children and two small dogs
Sarina Kilham and family

My interest is in state politics. I live in a community that has been heavily impacted by NSW State Government decisions (and lack thereof). Pathways to Politics seemed exciting and full of connected, politically minded women from across a broad spectrum of life experiences. I’ve been so supported by my neighbours, our local community and more broadly with people in our electorate.

I find the ‘real-talk’ from other women candidates to be the most revealing – putting on loads of washing before a day of working the pre-poll booths, putting kids to bed and then calling voters, planning for personal safety when door-knocking.

The best advice I’ve received is just be your genuine, authentic self. People will see through anything else.


My recommendations

I’m trying not to repeat ones from other Pathways alums – there are lots of good reads and listens on their profiles! These books I borrowed or listened to via my free public library app.


Books:

Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World by Stephanie Schriock (Author), Christina Reynolds (Author), Kamala Harris (Foreword)

I listened to the audiobook version. It’s made for a US audience, but with lessons applicable here.

Find the book online

Cover of the book Run to Win

The Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart

Why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it.

Find the book online

Cover of the book The Authority Gap

Stop Fixing Women: Why building fairer workplaces is everybody’s business by Catherine Fox

This one isn’t specifically on getting elected, but I found it provided an excellent ‘check-in’ on focusing on fixing systems, not changing people.

Find the book online

Cover of the book Stop fixing Women

Podcasts:

Frontier War Stories by Boe Spearim

If you are going to be an elected representative at any level  – you need to hear these stories and know this history.

Listen online

Illustration of two people in front of the Aboriginal flag in theshape of Australia. Text reads "Frontier War Stories"

Politics with Michelle GrattanThe Conversation

Mostly Federal politics – I like the analysis.

Listen online

Photo of political journalist Michelle Grattan wearing a bright red blazer, smiling

Follow the Money – The Australia Institute

Economics talk in a way that makes me feel part of the discussion.

Listen online

The words "Follow the Money" overlaid on a graphic of a bright blue arrow
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