Master of Business Information Technology graduate Susanne Newton is a Darebin City Councillor and the International Development Storyteller at the Institute of Human Security and Social Change.
How have your studies helped you along your career journey?
The support I received studying information management and business information technology offered industry knowledge and experience, connections and the skills to launch from libraries to international development and now politics.
After completing my masters degree, I spent a year working as a librarian in a developing country through the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program, funded by AusAid (now DFAT). This opportunity launched my career in international development.
How have your international opportunities developed since graduating?
My first international development assignment was in Samoa, where there were less than 10 qualified librarians in the country. I was a Library Management Officer at the National University of Samoa.
After Samoa, I spent a year teaching English in Japan which further expanded my worldview.
I then became involved in a UN Women committee as a volunteer; this led me to being chosen for a role in Kenya and Uganda. I worked for a year with UN Women as a Communications Officer through the Australian Red Cross and it was incredible working in an area I’m passionate about. I worked with female politicians and refugees from South Sudan, and arranged the press when Graca Machel’s (Nelson Mandela's wife) visited Uganda.
Tell me about your proudest moments from your work overseas.
I’m proud of being able to up-skill 40 Samoans to run school libraries and running a National Library Week with the Library Association of Samoa.
I’m also proud of launching the HeForShe campaign in Uganda on International Women’s Day 2015 – we had the President Yoweri Museveni sign the HeForShe pledge to commit to ending violence and discrimination against women and girls. In Uganda I learnt about how to be resilient and saw how people with so little often offer the most kindness and grace to others.
Have you experienced any difficult choices regarding your career?
When I returned to Melbourne after my year with UN Women I had a big choice to make – wait for a job offer that would continue a career in international aid or stay in Melbourne and figure my life out.
I put my hand up for a nomination to be one of the Greens candidates for Darebin Council, which meant I had to stay in Melbourne to campaign. It was a big decision and risk to stay and close the door to UN Women Uganda but I think I made the right choice! A year later I was elected to Darebin City Council.
When I was working with UN Women to build the capacity of smart, strong, passionate Ugandan female politicians and candidates I asked myself, ‘Who am I to develop them?’, since at the time Uganda had more women politicians than Australia. The best place for me to be changing politics was back here in Australia.
What was your goal in running for a position in local government?
I wanted to increase the number of women in the council and contribute to electing a more progressive, accountable council than what had come before. As of October 2016, Darebin now has a council of six women out of nine (up from two out of nine) and we have elected a progressive team that I know will work to represent the community well.
Where can you see your career heading in the future?
Apart from being a Councillor for the next four years I have no idea where my career will go next! Politics feels like a natural fit as it incorporates the diverse skills I’ve gathered over my non-linear career – diplomacy, international development, communications, negotiating, campaigning – I want to continue down that path and am looking forward to where it will lead me. I love the idea of having an impact by representing my community but also working towards good outcomes and a better future for people on a large scale.