Labor must understand rural women: Zuvele Leschen

Zuvele Leschen
Zuvele Leschen

THE Labor Party needs to better understand women living in rural and regional areas, says leading North East ALP figure Zuvele Leschen.

The party is among those guilty of tagging all regional women with the “women in agriculture” tag, without understanding the diversity of what regions have to offer and the roles women play.

Such assumptions, Ms Leschen said, was akin to assuming “every woman who lives in the city works in an office ... it’s simplistic and needs to be challenged”.

It’s a concern she will take to Canberra next month after winning a grant to attend the National Labor Women’s Conference.

The conference will see rank-and-file party members alongside federal, state and territory MPs discussing issues facing Australian women and the party itself.

Ms Leschen expected party reform and affirmative action to be on the agenda following pre-selection controversy in Victoria, in which the party breached its own rules by nominating fewer than the required number of female candidates.

That included in the upper house seat of Northern Victoria, where Ms Leschen and three other North East women were overlooked in favour of two male candidates from Melbourne.

“I know what happened in the upper house here caused concern nationwide, so we’ll be looking to tighten the party rules so hopefully it can’t happen again,” she said.

“There’ll also be further discussions about maximising the impact women can have in the party.”

Ms Leschen’s involvement in the women’s conference comes a week after the Labor candidate for Benambra Jennifer Podesta’s Twitter gaffe, in which she remarked that politicians like Liberal Kelly O’Dwyer “makes me glad there aren’t more female MPs in the govt”.

Ms Leschen said there had been no complaints in the party locally about Ms Podesta’s comment and that she was “willing to take it for what it is”, an error in judgment.

“We all in the heat of the moment have said and done things we shouldn’t,” she said.

“If we’re going to say that people have to be 100 per cent correct in everything they say every time, then we’d have very few people in politics.”

The Labor Party has yet to find a candidate to run against the Nationals’ Tim McCurdy in Ovens Valley in the November state election.

The party hopes to put a dent in Mr McCurdy’s 19.2 per cent margin.