An Adelaide-based high school teacher has been elected National President of the Australian Democrats, joining a significant list of women who have held leading roles in the Party since its formation 40 years ago.
Elisa Resce, 32, joined the Democrats in 2013 when the Party was at a low point following the loss of parliamentary representation and a factional bid for control of the Party.
She has replaced long-serving President Darren Churchill, of the ACT, in a national ballot of members decided this month. Ms Resce was formerly the Party’s National Communications Officer and President of the SA Division.
Mr Churchill, who served six years as President during which the damaging factional bid was subdued, said he is “confident that we now have a united Party”.
Women have figured prominently in the history of the Australian Democrats with 14 having served as MPs in federal, state and territory parliaments. Founding member Heather Southcott was Member for Mitcham in the SA House of Assembly in 1981, and became the first female leader of a parliamentary party in Australia.
Six of the nine elected federal parliamentary leaders of the Democrats were women, starting with Janine Haines. Others were Janet Powell, Cheryl Kernot, Meg Lees, Natasha Stott-Despoja and Lyn Allison.
Despite the Party’s fragile position when she joined, Ms Resce was drawn to its unique approach to policy-making allowing for maximum member participation, and policies that she found to be evidence-based, solutions focused, and ahead of their time.
“I come from a mixed political family background made up of rural farmers, Italian immigrants and conservative Christians,” said Ms Resce, who is openly gay.
“Contemporary politics always asks us to draw battle lines, pick a side, and approach ideas with an us-and-them mentality. The problem is that I can’t seem to pick a side without throwing part of my family, or part of my community, under the bus. So when I discovered the Australian Democrats, who are more interested in ideas than identities, it was a good fit for me.”
Ms Resce believes the Australian public is disenfranchised with the growing polarisation of views and demonising of political oppositions. She sees the Australian Democrats as a party offering a fresh approach. “We want to negotiate. We want to find common ground. We want to work with good ideas, no matter which political corner they come from. That is what is missing in Australian politics, and that is what we continue to offer.”
She acknowledges many challenges are still ahead for the Democrats, including achieving re-registration as a political party, essential for contesting elections. The current National Executive – a mixture of long-term members with a strong history in the Party and newer members with fresh initiatives – are targeting each barrier systematically, however.
“If you miss the Democrats, or if you are looking for a new approach to politics, we encourage you to get on board,” Ms Resce said.
Phone Elisa Resce 0400 466 773 for further comment.
18th July 2017