In our MECCA M-Powered interview series, fearless people from around the globe share their incredible stories – from overcoming adversity to following their passions and inspiring a future generation of changemakers.
Georgie Carey knew her local town of Mosman Park in Western Australia was one of the most socio-economically diverse suburbs in Australia. But when she discovered a third of its population was under the age of 30, and yet saw no-one remotely close to that age represented on the local council, she decided things needed to change. At age 21, she ran for a position as a council member and, much to her own surprise, was elected!
Now, Carey is 26 and the deputy mayor of Mosman Park – and a passionate advocate for the inclusion of young people in positions of decision making.
Here, Carey shares more about her experience as a young woman in politics – and how she’s encouraging other young women to follow her lead.
On breaking barriers – and hearing new voices
When Carey was elected to her local council at 21, she – and many people around her – were (naturally) stunned. She may have been the youngest female elected member on the council, but it was clear to her from the beginning that there were still many barriers that were hindering progress towards gender equality in politics.
“When I was first elected to council, someone told me that I was only elected so there’d be something nice to look at!” shares Carey. “I believe there are still negative stereotypes about female leaders – especially if they’re women of colour or younger.”
For representative democracy to work at its best, Carey believes elected representatives need to reflect the diversity of the places they represent. It’s one reason she is so passionate about helping young people become more involved in politics.
“We know that when we see who is represented in our places of power, such as our parliaments and our councils, the rich diversity of our communities is often not there,” she explains, adding, “Young people, in particular, are often left out of decision-making processes even though the decisions being made today will disproportionately affect us in the future.
“We need more women, people of colour and younger people engaging in local decision-making processes to shape more inclusive communities and policies that advance gender equality.”
On tapping into the power of social media
For Carey, social media played a big part in her campaign for local government. While other candidates took a more traditional route, Carey knew the way to reach other young people was by tapping into the channels they use to communicate every day.
She took a similar approach during Western Australia’s local government elections last year: “I was also a part of a social media campaign to increase the amount of young people voting in the elections, since voting at the local government level is not compulsory in Western Australia,” shares Carey.
Recently, she’s taken to TikTok with the aim of showing exactly what it’s like to be a 26-year-old deputy mayor, as well as generally increasing education about local government. “I really want to make the most of this opportunity to give people, especially young people, an insight into a job they probably otherwise wouldn’t see,” she says.
On encouraging women to enter politics
“Structurally, we’ve seen that quotas are an effective tool for political parties to accelerate the number of women getting elected to state and federal parliaments,” says Carey. “In Western Australia, I love what organisations like She Runs are doing to empower women with skills and networks to run for public office.”
Inspired by others in her field – including the new local member for Curtin, Kate Chaney, Fatima Payman, who is the newly elected senator for Western Australia and youngest person in the federal parliament, as well as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – Carey continues to work towards ensuring young women are included in decision making.
“At a broader level, I am the chairperson of the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia – our state’s peak body for young people – whereby I help to steer the direction of the organisation to ensure systemic inclusion of young people in government policy. I have also represented Australia at the 2019 G(irls)20 Global Summit (now Fora Network for Change) to advocate for the economic inclusion of young women to G20 world leaders.”