Paving the way for women in politics

February 24, 2024 BY

Years of service: Jaala Pulford served in the State's upper house representing Western Victoria from 2006 until 2022. Photo: MIRIAM LITWIN

THE decriminalisation of abortion, introducing voluntary assisted dying laws, and helping small businesses make it through the COVID-19 pandemic are just some of the achievements of Ballarat local Jaala Pulford.

Ms Pulford is being inducted into the Zonta Club of Ballarat’s Great Women Honour Roll as part of recognition of the things she has done for the community.

She was elected to parliament in 2006 as a Member for Western Victoria in the Legislative Council, or state upper house, and re-elected on three occasions, before retiring from politics in 2022.

Ms Pulford was the first women to hold the portfolios of agriculture, roads, fishing and boating, small business, resources, employment, and innovation, medical research and the digital economy.

“When I was elected to parliament there had been 73 women before me in the 100 years of Victorian parliament,” she said.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some extraordinary female political leaders who were typically the only woman in the room.

“By the time I got there, being the only women in the room had become rare and it’s a complete novelty now.

“The cabinet Jacinta Allan leads is a majority comprised of women.”

Ms Pulford said her most significant contributions throughout her time in parliament were decriminalising abortion in 2008 and introducing voluntary assisted dying laws in 2017.

“I quite like the hard stuff, and the things that are the most memorable are the ones that just about kill you,” she said.

“Women my age I think were universally shocked to know that it [abortion] was ever in the crimes act, it was a statute imported from 1850s Britain, so it was about correcting a wrong.

“It’s not like what’s happening on the other side of the Pacific where people will die.”

Ms Pulford was Minister for Small Business during the COVID-19 pandemic and said she helped the enterprises get through lockdowns.

She was also instrumental in transforming the Ballarat Station precinct and the building of GovHub.

“There was a small but very loud point of community opposition to each of those,” said Ms Pulford.

“But that part of town is completely different now, there is new venues at the station, when it was a very daggy gravel carpark.”

For all those achievements, and more, Ms Pulford said they could not have happened without a team of politicians and staff.

“Really, anything anyone achieves in public life is a team effort,” she said.

“My professional achievements have overwhelmingly been in politics and the thing about that is to achieve absolutely anything in politics you need to involve a lot of people.”