The ANMF has welcomed the election of a nurse to the federal Parliament in the Batman by-election earlier this year.
Nurse and former ANMF Federal Secretary Ged Kearney has made history by winning the federal seat of Batman in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs and becoming the first nurse in the House of Representatives.
Two nurses, Patricia Giles (Labor) and Judith Adams (Liberal) both from Western Australia, held Senate (upper house) positions in the federal Parliament in the past but Ged is the first nurse to represent the Australian people in the House of Representatives (lower house).
Ged won the seat of Batman for the Australian Labor Party on 17 March 2018, with a 7.9% swing, in a strongly contested campaign with the Australian Greens. Her campaign team included many local nurses and union members.
Ged told the ANMJ that her nursing background was a significant factor in winning the seat for Labor. “Nurses are the most trusted professionals in the community and it is such a privilege to be part of that. Being a nurse teaches you to empathise and listen to people. You work with people when they are vulnerable and gain their trust.”
Nursing has equipped Ged with communication skills she plans on using in her role as a federal MP. “I have always felt being a nurse was a real privilege and that has extended to my work in the union movement both at the ANMF and ACTU,” she says.
“I have never felt a sense of entitlement in my working life and I think it is important for elected representatives to understand that we are in a very privileged position. A lot of people in the community today feel politicians act with a sense of entitlement but the reality is people are investing their faith in you and that is an absolute privilege.”
Being a former ANMF Federal Secretary and ACTU President has allowed Ged to develop strong negotiation and leadership skills.
“I have been lucky to hold leadership positions in great organisations. Being ANMF Federal Secretary was one of the best experiences. It is one of the fastest growing and best unions we have. It was such a wonderful job because I got to fight for our health system and work with nurses and advocate for patients.”
As President of the ACTU Ged continued to campaign for improvements to workers’ rights and conditions. “A big focus for me in this campaign was campaigning for real change. This is a theme that has underpinned both of my roles at the ANMF and ACTU,” she says.
“I had to fight for change for my members and the community and I had a few good wins. I worked hard to get Labor to commit to family and domestic violence leave. In 2011, as ACTU President I was part of a big campaign on insecure work which is an issue for many nurses. I have also lost a few battles and learnt not to give up.”
Ged says nurses can expect her to continue to fight for Labor values and social justice issues. “I want nurses to know that the very heart of Labor values are still the issues that working people need and want from government. They want decent health and education, they want to know they can get a decent job and have a living wage and this is the essence of what Labor stands for,” she says.
“What I’ve learnt in my campaign to win the seat of Batman is that people also expect governments to have a strong sense of social justice in relation to asylum seekers and acting on the big social impact issues like climate change. I am prepared to put my neck out and fight for decent outcomes on those issues.”
For more on the professional background of Australian MPs click here.