Yes, there are jobs in politics that really make a difference. Greens staffer Katherine Copsey shares how to land one
People find amazing jobs on EthicalJobs.com.au every day. This is part of a series of blog posts that go behind the scenes to meet some of the people and organisations finding each other through EthicalJobs.com.au.
Today’s story is from Katherine Copsey. She found her former role as an Electorate Officer at the Office of Greg Barber – the parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens in Victoria – on EthicalJobs.com.au.
Hi Katherine! First of all, can you tell us about your first ever paid job?
Well, my first ever paid job was at McDonalds, so a pretty low ‘ethical’ bar to start from – things have certainly improved since then!
I also did some volunteer work at a local op shop on the weekends though, so that helped balance the scales a little. It also contributed to my love of op shopping and recycled fashion!
So can you tell us a little about your education and career before you started working with the Greens?
I studied arts/law at uni, and it certainly had an impact on my career.
After uni I secured a clerkship at a major commercial law firm, and worked in employee relations and litigation before qualifying and practicing as a planning and environment lawyer for several years. I worked on securing planning and environment approvals for major projects including a number of wind energy facilities.
I also provided advice regarding contamination and clean-up issues, and progressing land acquisition matters for major rail projects. It was a great experience – challenging and intellectually stimulating, working with some of the best lawyers in the country.
So what inspired you to get involved in politics?
My experience in the legal sector was a catalyst for moving into politics. As a solicitor, I was working with wind energy clients who were trying to progress these fantastic renewables projects, but were coming up against arbitrary and onerous planning restrictions put in place by the Liberal state government.
Around the same time, I had been volunteering on the weekends in Adam Bandt’s campaign to be re-elected as the Greens MP for Melbourne. It was so clear that if we wanted to have evidence-based laws that provide for an efficient transition to modern and clean energy, we needed more people like him in parliament, at all levels of government.
Our laws are tools for creating the type of society we want to live in. There are some fantastic activist and community lawyers and firms out there, but they have to work within the current legal framework. So we need legislators who have a plan to create a sustainable and ethical society, and the political will to action it – that’s why I work with the Greens.
You worked as an Electorate Officer for Greg Barber before your election to council – what did that involve?
When I worked in the electorate office, my first priority was helping Greg’s constituents – so that customer service experience ended up being very handy!
I provided information about what was happening in parliament and issues that affected people in Greg’s electorate, and worked with local community groups to make sure the government heard their voices.
We also researched bills and topics coming up in parliament and its committees, and briefed our MPs. There were just a few staff, so the role changed a bit depending on what was going on! It was always exciting though, and the huge range of issues and groups we worked with kept things fresh and interesting.
And what will you be working on in the coming year?
I'm now a Greens councillor for Lake Ward in the City of Port Phillip and have also been appointed deputy mayor. Over the term I'm looking forward to working with my fellow councillors to listen and lead in our community, and create the fair, sustainable and inclusive Port Phillip we all want to see.
Just finally, what advice would you give to the many ethical jobseekers who dream of a landing a job like yours?
Greens MPs often advertise on EthicalJobs.com.au, so keep an eye out!
But you don’t have to wait for a position to open up to get involved – volunteering with the Greens is a fantastic way to network with other supporters, build your policy knowledge and develop campaigning skills. That’s how I got involved – it’s been so personally rewarding, and you never know where it might lead you!
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Katherine!
Other posts you might be interested in:
- "It's the most fulfilling job I've ever had" – journalist Naomi Hockins shares how she ended up working with kids in Tanzania
- "It's OK to not know what you want" – Rachel Davis tells the story of her journey to working with Good Shepherd Microfinance
- Yes, social justice officer is a job – and this is one path to become one