Former PM a Research Project coup for student

When Nathan Sewart started looking into the barriers faced by female politicians, there was one person he wanted to interview above all others – Julia Gillard.

And the former prime minister delivered, candidly answering Nathan’s questions for his SACE Research Project – To what capacity are women able to play a meaningful role in Australia’s Federal Parliament?

He agrees it’s an unusual Research Project topic for a student at an all-boys’ school, but says it’s important young men understand the issues faced by women in politics.

“It’s important we (male students) know these issues are there, and understand them, so that we’re not part of the problem when we’re older,” says Year 11 student Nathan, pictured.

“I do think we are moving forward, things are sort of getting better, but there are still people who don’t recognise the issues women face, not just in politics, but in workplaces, in general.”

He knew he wanted to investigate politics and feminism as part of his SACE Research Project, which is completed during Year 11 at Blackfriars, but was initially unsure of the specific direction to take.

“And then, at the time I was starting it, they had the (Sex Discrimination Commissioner) Kate Jenkins report (into the culture of Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces) released,” Nathan says.

“At the same time, Grace Tame had the National Press Club address with Brittany Higgins. They both talked about the issues women face in politics.”

Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame at the National Press Club. Picture: NCA Newswire/Gary Ramage

He went on to hear both women speak at Adelaide Writers’ Week.

He also contacted many current and former female political leaders, but Ms Gillard was among few to respond.

“She (Ms Gillard) gave me really great resources,” he says.

“I read her autobiography, so it was great to be able to cross-reference the details in there and find out extra information. She would be the top authority on my topic, being the highest-ranked female politician Australia has ever had, so I was quite lucky to get her.”

He was also able to ask her about her now-famous 2012 misogyny speech.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard. Picture: SHM/James Brickwood

“I got to ask her about how her emotions were during that speech, how she was feeling, why she had to give that speech, specific things that you can’t really find online. Being able to ask her that greatly benefitted my research,” he says.

Nathan’s researched showed that misogyny was one of the biggest barriers faced by female politicians.

“Women can’t voice themselves, because they’ll get called bitchy, and if they don’t say anything, they’ll get called lazy. So, it’s really hard for them to find a middle ground. Those aren’t things that men have to deal with,” Nathan says.

“And then there’s things like being judged for your clothing. It’s a bunch of extra challenges (for women). Politics is already a hard job, and then they have to deal with all the other social issues that just come with being a woman in politics.”

As he prepares for his final year at Blackfriars, Nathan has one eye on the future, hoping to secure a place to study Law at the University of Melbourne.

And he has some advice for future Research Project students: “You need to make sure you do something you’re passionate about. It’s a lot of work and if there’s no passion there, you’re going to get tired of it and not necessarily do well.”


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