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Career Journeys: Alyssa Shaw is campaigning for a safer future

People find amazing jobs on EthicalJobs.com.au every day. This is part of a series of articles 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 Alyssa Shaw, who found her role as a Campaign Manager at Fair Agenda on EthicalJobs.com.au.

Fair Agenda is a national campaigning organisation focusing on realising gender equity and justice. They work on issues that bring us closer to realising safety and equity for all. 

Starting out with work

I don’t often think about my first job, as it is also one of my longest jobs – I started working at McDonalds when I was 14! I left over 5 years later after working my way up to being a store manager and going to Maccas management school (yes, it’s a real thing!). It also wasn’t long after I left that I became vegetarian – so read into that what you will! 

Although it was certainly a stressful job in many ways, especially overnight shifts, I loved working with colleagues from all over the world, as my colleagues were mainly international students. It was incredible experience to be responsible at 18 for managing the welfare of my colleagues and ensure the store made far too much money (ah, capitalism!).   

I first studied Commerce, so I have a grounding in management and marketing, but also a deep interest in economics. My Masters was a bit of a switch, focused on intersectional feminism theory, which is more reflective of the work I do now. Both have been very helpful in different ways and I apply them everyday. I like that business has given me a very practical skillset and insights which I apply in running organisation and in corporate campaigning. While my Masters has been a real values alignment for me – allowing me to grow a strong understanding of my own purpose, and the philosophy behind why and how we can create structural change to end intersecting oppressions and inequality. 

As a teenager I worked mainly in hospitality and retail before I got my first desk job after completing by undergraduate – I worked for the Federal Government at the Treasury and Prime Minister and Cabinet. It was seeing the treatment of Julia Gillard as PM that was a tipping point for me – I decided to move over to the gender equity sector and started my Masters in feminist theory. 

Since then I’ve mainly been in the NFP space. I became a CEO at 26, when I was elected to led one of the largest postgraduate student unions in Australia, which was a real learning curve and remains my favourite jobs to date. The union managed service delivery and events for members, advocacy and campaigns, and developing institution-specific and national policy. I’ve been fortunate that in my working life I have worked on a range of economic and social justice issues including NAIDOC, Raise the Rate, and last year launching shEqual which focuses on gender equity in advertising, before coming to Fair Agenda where I focus on sexual violence prevention. I’ve also been lucky to work with some great politicians and volunteer on governance bodies and organising bodies for community events. 

I’m still new in Melbourne (moving at the end of 2020 was not ideal!) and always on the look out for ways to get further involved in the community, including board opportunities and networking. 

Working at Fair Agenda

Fair Agenda is a national campaigning organisation focusing on realising gender equity and justice. We work on issues that bring us closer to realising safety and equity for all. 

In practical terms, we are a team of four campaigners with a dedicated and involved board who supports us. We have been around for about 7 years and in that time have undertaken campaigns on issues from respectful relationships to funding violence services for survivors.  

I work as a Campaign Manager and oversee our respectful relationships education campaign, as well as other topical campaigns such as a proper process to support safety in Parliament. At the moment, the team is working on our election campaign which is launching soon, so watch this space!

What I love about campaigning is that we are usually responding to current issues and looking for opportunities to engage and influence national conversations, which means the work is dynamic. 

As a team we make sure we have regular meetings to plan work, strategise, and support one another as we are geographically spread out. We are also regularly communicating with our members, working with policy experts and specialists in the gender equity and violence prevention and response sector, and survivor advocates. 

I really love engaging with all the fabulous people in the gender and violence prevention space – our dedicated members, survivor advocates, experts – everyone has such passion for the work, insights and dedication to making a difference. 

I also love my colleagues – they are all capable, insightful people and strong feminists, and it’s amazing to work with people that have similar values, and a want to make a difference. 

Working for a better world

Because it’s been so long, I’m not 100% sure how I first came across EthicalJobs.com.au – I think a friend mentioned it to me as I wanted to move from Government to the NFP space. It’s now the only search engine I use to find new job and board opportunities, plus refer opportunities to friends. 

I was about to finish a maternity leave contract and wondering where I would go to next. At that point Grace Tame had been named Australian of the Year and Brittney Higgins had not long come out with allegations of sexual assault in Parliament. 

I saw this job on EthicalJobs.com.au and just knew it was the one – the opportunity to really be in the thick of these pivotal national conversations, and with a federal election on the horizon as well.  

The work I do is a core part of my identity – so for me its about a values alignment. I am very aware, having worked in the gender equity sector for some time, just how lucky I am to be paid for the work I do. So many advocates do so much to progress these issues with no financial compensation, and often at personal cost. 

I’ve worked for the Federal Government and within private businesses, mainly consulting and in board roles. I think all of these sectors contribute in different ways and often attract different people, but I generally find that NFP people are my type of people – they are driven by their values, hope and determination to transform our community into a better place. And that’s the type of work I want to do. 

My advice to ethical jobseekers would be – live according to your values, and back yourself. More and more I think knowing who you are, and supporting yourself, is an act of courage. Living authentically and also creates space for others to be themselves, and doing so means we realise a type of personal and collective liberation grounded in respect and equity. On a practical note that means trying to communicate who you are when looking for jobs and at interview (although often easier said than done!) 

Looking around at what’s happening in the world at the moment, I feel uneasy – peace feels tenuous and there is a sense of helplessness with what to do. Times like these bring the relative privileges and opportunities we have in Australia into sharp view. I take some solace in knowing that the blessings of democratic peace, and relatively safety, have come about through the hard-won battles of advocates over history. We must take the time to support our international sisters, brothers and folks, while also continuing to make our patch of the world a safety, more equitable place. Continuing to transform and change our part of the world is a powerful act – it demonstrates what is possible, and becomes a beacon of hope for others. And I think we all need to feel some hope at the moment. 

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