Katy Gallagher on overcoming tragedy, life in politics and ending violence against women

Thursday 2 May 2024

In our latest episode of A Podcast of One’s Own – the podcast created by the team at GIWL and hosted by our founder and chair, Julia Gillard – we’re joined by Katy Gallagher.

Katy Gallagher is Australia’s Federal Minister for Women, Minister for Finance and Minister for the Public Service. In this candid conversation Julia and Katy delve into Katy’s early life growing up in Canberra, the tragic loss that shaped her path forward, her career in ACT and federal politics and how she’s working to better the lives of all Australian women through the Federal Government’s new strategy for gender equality. This conversation was recorded in early April before the national rallies against gender based violence.


Challenging the male-dominated landscape

National politics, both inside and outside the parliament, has traditionally been a male-dominated game. However, a new generation of women is stepping up and challenging the status quo. As Katy explains, "the women coming behind us, they take that spot. You know, they're taking it a step further. It's not just about holding or being part of this, they're actually challenging some of what goes on, which is really heartening to me to watch."


From Canberra local to political trailblazer

Katie Gallagher's political journey is a remarkable one. Born and raised in Canberra, she was one of the rare "Canberra natives" who grew up in the nation's capital. Her parents, who had strong ties to the Labour Party, instilled in her the importance of community involvement and activism, which would later shape her own political aspirations.


Overcoming tragedy and finding resilience

Gallagher's path to politics was not without its challenges. In 1997, at the age of 27, she experienced a devastating personal tragedy when her fiancé, Brett, was killed in a bike accident. This traumatic event profoundly shaped her and taught her valuable lessons about empathy, resilience, and the importance of prioritizing mental health.


Entering the political arena

Despite her initial reluctance, Gallagher found herself drawn into the political arena. In the early 2000s, with the encouragement of the Labour Party's Emily's List initiative, she decided to run for the ACT Legislative Assembly. Though initially seen as a long shot, Gallagher's campaign was a surprise success, and she was elected to the assembly in 2001.


Climbing the political ladder

Gallagher's time in the ACT Legislative Assembly was marked by a steady rise through the ranks. She held various portfolios, including Health and Treasury, and eventually became the Deputy Chief Minister.

Transitioning to Federal politics

In 2013, Gallagher made the leap to Federal politics, joining the Senate as a Labour senator for the ACT. The transition was not without its challenges, as she found the political culture at the Federal level to be more "brutal" and "nasty" than what she had experienced in the ACT.


Driving gender equality initiatives

As the Federal Minister for Women, Gallagher has been a driving force behind the government's efforts to promote gender equality. In March 2023, she announced Australia's first-ever strategy for gender equality, a 10-year commitment to address issues such as violence against women and the gender pay gap.


Empowering the next generation of women leaders

Gallagher's own experiences have given her a unique perspective on the challenges faced by women in politics. She acknowledges that the political landscape is still predominantly male-dominated, but she is encouraged by the younger generation of women who are not just "holding a spot at the table," but actively challenging the status quo.

Katie Gallagher's journey is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and a commitment to making a difference. Her story serves as an inspiration for women aspiring to break down barriers and shape the future of Australian politics.


Listen to the conversation with Julia and Katy on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you’re not already, make sure to subscribe to A Podcast of One’s Own so you never miss an episode


Updated:  2 May 2024/Responsible Officer:  Institute Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications