Win For Diversity In Local Government Elections

Sara Diana Faraj’s parents fled to Australia as refugees from the Middle East before she was born.

Now Fraser Coast Regional Council’s youngest elected councillor is determined to make her voice count and she thanks the QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program for helping turn the dream of a political career into reality.

“My support network is my family and partner and other community leaders in the Fraser Coast and the Pathways to Politics for Women program,” Cr Faraj, 22, said.

“It answered a lot of questions and until then, I didn’t know where to ask those questions.

“After I finished the program, I knew I was going to do this. I had confidence in myself and saw so many other young women like me who wanted to pursue politics as well and I thought If they can do it, I can too.”

Cr Faraj is one of 13 QUT Pathways to Politics for Women alumni to win a seat in the recent Queensland local government elections, which includes the election of two mayors.

“I learned about democracy and the Women’s Suffrage Movement when I was in Grade 6 and from then on I wanted to make a change in my community and represent people,” she said.

“My family is from the Middle East. They came here in the year 2000. I have a lot of cousins who married really young, as young as 13 or 14, and I thought that was really unjust. As a woman of colour growing up in Central Western NSW before moving to Hervey Bay when I was in Year 11, it hasn’t been easy. We can’t make changes in government unless there is a diversity of voices and ages.”

The 2022 Young Citizen of the Year, who became the world’s youngest Zonta Club president when she was elected to the local Hervey Bay club at age 19, has leaned on her QUT Pathways to Politics for Women training during her local government campaign.

“I made sure I got my branding out there. I sharpened it and refined my message and what I was about. I got out there and spoke to the community, knocked on doors, waved to people on the side of the road.

“I am all about being genuine and I didn’t have to add too much to my usual diary during campaigning.”

QUT Pathways to Politics for Women program director, Professor Vicky Browning, congratulated Cr Faraj on her election win, saying regional Queensland communities were the big winners at this year’s election.

“Eight of our alumni were elected in areas outside of Brisbane and this will greatly benefit rural and regional Queensland,” Professor Browning said.

“These women will look at their communities with a different lens. They have lived experiences they can refer to and come from different cultural backgrounds including some women from refugee backgrounds and they are coming into politics with their eyes wide open.”

Applications are now open for the 2024 QUT Pathways to Politics for Women, closing on 24 April. Apply HERE.

A virtual information session to learn about the course will be presented by program director Professor Vicky Browning on Tuesday, 16 April. Register HERE.

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