Cr Kris Pavlidis has been elected as mayor of the City of Whittlesea for the second time following a council meeting last week.
Now in her fourth term as a councillor, she was the first female mayor of Greek background to serve the municipality. To ensure she is not the last, as one of her first matters of business in the top job, Cr Pavlidis acknowledged her commitment to “gender balance and equity through the creation of concrete opportunities” and is kicking off with an initiative to encourage young people to get involved in politics.
“More than 50 per cent of our demographic are women and yet that isn’t reflected in the decision-making structures, positions and levels,” Cr Pavlidis told Neos Kosmos.
“If we go back to quite a few years ago, it was a similar drive that I was pushing and this is going back many years now and we’ve made little progress.”
While women are continuously working towards shattering the glass ceiling, she says one of the reasons women have sometimes shied away from getting involved in politics is that traditionally they have not been encouraged to enter the space which for decades was overwhelmingly male-dominated.
“What I’ve understood is that a lot of women see politics as a much more difficult space to enter. I want to break it down a little bit so it’s a lot more meaningful and the comprehension around it is more real, rather than the perception. Some of the perceptions are accurate, but some of them are not,” she explains.
For the newly elected mayor, entering politics wasn’t particularly intimidating given she grew up being exposed to her migrant father’s involvement in politics at a community level, and being passionate about pursuing real change, she knew it could only be addressed systemically.
But not everyone comes from a politically engaged household, and as a result she says through her exposure speaking to young people, when it comes to both young men and women, that there is not enough interest at a grassroots levels, negatively impacted by a lack of understanding of the significance of the political processes.
“People turn around and say ‘I’m not interested in politics, I couldn’t care less about it, why should I?’. Well, politics are everywhere: they’re in the schoolyard, they’re in the office. We’re all involved in it, we’re all impacted by it, and not enough of us are taking enough interest or responsibility in how we drive the politics around us. It’s not about learning the science of politics, that’s a degree in itself. This is about how you can use politics as a tool so you’re a more effective practitioner in your sector, whatever that may be,” she explains.
The mayor plans on addressing this with a mentoring program offered to schools and tertiary institutions and aimed at both genders with the chance to ‘walk with a mayor’ to spend a week or a month with Cr Pavlidis to be exposed to the different approaches to decision-making, structures, the various positions in local government, and budgets.
“Sometimes they say if people don’t understand something it develops a fear, well I want to break that down a little bit and say it’s around you anyway, it’s not such an intimidating concept. Come and have a look and see how decisions are made at a senior level.”