Zali Steggall OAM decided to run as an independent in the 2019 election after feeling ‘disenfranchised’ by the major political parties in power.
The former Winter Olympian and barrister-turned-politician ran on a platform advocating action on climate change, mental health, and government integrity and honesty. She’s since served as Warringah’s MP, after defeating former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the traditionally liberal seat. Being a Manly local, she set out to make a change in her own community. Now, she’s one of only three independent members in the Australian House of Representatives.
‘I was motivated to put forward better policies for climate action and increase female participation in politics. I have never been a member of a political party and felt very disenfranchised by the party system,’ Zali says.
While her past as an successful athlete and lawyer looks quite different to her current day-to-day, Zali says her past career experiences have given her ‘the perfect mix’ of skills for the job of a politician – ranging from the dedication and resilience required to be an elite competitor, to the analytical expertise she gained working in law.
‘[I’m most proud of my work] moving the dial on climate policy and putting forward the Climate Change Bills with broad support from business, industry, unions and environmental groups, and forcing the government to get rid of gas exploration off the coast from Newcastle to Manly,’ Zali says of her political career so far.
About a month away from the all-important federal election, we ask Zali want she wants to see from voters when they go to the polls on May 21.
‘I sincerely hope that more voters question the status quo of the major parties and vote independent,’ she says. ‘Politics needs to change in Australia.’
Here, she shares what a typical day in her life looks like!
I generally wake up at 4.55am. When in Warringah the first thing I do is go for a run with Manly Beach run club. Then I walk my dog Charli with my husband Tim, which is an important moment together, where we discuss everything that is going on and how our kids are going. After, I’ll normally pick up a coffee and catch up on the news.
I find I work best with a good routine. It is vital for me to get regular exercise. It can be exhausting fitting it all in, but by staying fit I have the energy to do a lot more!
The time I start work depends on whether I am in Canberra for Parliament or in Warringah. I review the news, social media and emails to about 8.30am then start zoom meetings or meetings in my office from 9.30am. On other days, media interviews start from 6.30am.
My first tasks are always checking the news and social media and reviewing the issues and announcements from Government.
I’m not very good with lunch, it tends to be on the run between meetings and zooms!
My days are a bit of a blur as I have a lot of meetings with constituents, local businesses and groups, and zoom forums when I am in the electorate. In Parliament it’s a different story, starting with Question Time at 2pm. Depending on the legislation, it can go quite late – for example, the Prime Minister recently forced Members and their staff to stay until 5am to rush through the Religious Discrimination Bill.
Afternoons are my hardest time, when my early starts make me quite tired.
There is no fixed time for when I finish work, it’s a moving feast. I often address community groups and zoom forums in the evenings. When I can, I try to go to the gym. I have been going to a crossfit gym for six years now and love the challenge of the workouts and the camaraderie.
For dinner, we do Marley Spoon dinners four nights a week and the kids, Tim and I try to take turns to cook.
To unwind, my hobby is doing ultra-trail runs. I have done several 100km events and they require months of training and commitment. I love running in the bush, it’s like active mindfulness for me. It’s a great way to unwind mentally, get back to basics and feel grounded and connected with nature. It also makes me physically tired which helps me switch off mentally. But to switch off on a typical evening at home, I’m usually on the couch, watching tv with Tim, our dog Charli and cat Coco on my lap!
I usually go to sleep between 10pm and 11pm, but I need to work on getting to bed earlier with my early mornings. I mostly get about 6 hours and know that I need more!
Right now I’m listening to, watching, and reading…
News, news and more news. I wish there was more time to read the wonderful books that people send me – I have amassed a stack of books that’s almost as tall as I am!
I get my best work done when…
It’s go time. Being an athlete, a lawyer, and now a politician I find some of my best work happens when it’s simply time to perform.
My productivity tool/tip is…
Wake up early.
A philosophy I live and work by is…
Do your best, don’t be afraid, back yourself.
Something I’ve learned the hard way is…
Trust your own instincts.
To learn more about Zali Steggall’s policies and campaign, visit her website here.