Kat Theophanous says she gained inspiration from New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, who showed it was possible to combine politics with caring for a baby.
By NORA ELBAROUDI
Kat Theophanous has politics and the Labor Party in her blood. But it was not a given that she would follow in the footsteps of her father – Labor state government minister Theo – and stand as a Labor candidate.
“Growing up with a politician as a dad, it sort of means that politics becomes the thing that means that dad is never around, or he is always on the phone or there are strangers at our dinner table,” she said.
Her path to politics started in earnest when in 2015 she worked as an adviser in the Office of the Minister for Women and for the Prevention of Family Violence, Fiona Richardson.
“For me, seeing her do the things that she did and be so strong and achieve what she did for this community – but also state-wide in Victoria – was very inspiring and it’s what made me decide that I want to get in to politics too,” she said.
Ms Theophanous studied media, communication and philosophy at the University of Melbourne. After graduating she interned as a journalist at the Athens News Agency and then became an electorate officer.
Gender equality and family violence issues are high on Ms Theophanous’s political agenda. If elected, she said she would work for more funding to the electorate’s over-stretched schools. This situation is mainly caused by the number of people moving into the Northcote area, which is also connected to the other big ticket item the candidate is concerned about – public transport.
“We just need to make sure that we are offering the [public transport] services needed to cater for all of these people,” she said.
Cost of living is also a major issue in Northcote, according to the Labor candidate. She said wages were falling behind the cost of living, with younger people particularly vulnerable and often finding it hard pay rent.
According to Ms Theophanous, 40 per cent of the residents in the Northcote electorate rented rather than owned their accommodation.
This is why “addressing cost of living issues is something that is important to me”, she said.
At 31, the Labor candidate for Northcote is also a mother with a young baby daughter who was nine months old when the election process started. She is now 13 months and Ms Theophanous said it was challenging to balance life as a politician and being a mother.
Ms Theophanous said it was important to her to be a good role model for her daughter, and show her that anything is possible. She said New Zealand’s female Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was an inspiration in terms of balancing politics and being a mother of a young baby.
Gender equality was very important, and she said there was an urgent need for more young women in politics.
Ms Theophanous said she was confident she would do well in the election.
“Dad says he is very proud. He is very supportive and encouraging. I grew up with three older brothers but dad never discriminated against me for being the only girl and the youngest. If anything, he pushed me to be even better,” she said.
For more on the Victorian election please see The Junction/UniPollWatch.