From ‘accidental politician’ to ‘change agent’

Kelly Vincent MLCIt is not often a 25 year old can turn around at a dinner party and claim a list of firsts. That’s unless you’re South Australian politician Kelly Vincent.

Kelly is the youngest woman voted into any Australian Parliament, the first Parliamentarian dedicated to representing people with disability, first South Australian Parliamentarian to permanently use a wheelchair, and with Cerebral Palsy.

And that impressive list does not end there. Right now she is working at being the first person to change Australia’s justice system to give people with disabilities an equal voice in court.

When you read Kelly’s bio you can see being politically aware did not happen by chance. As a teenager, frustrated by a wheelchair that never came she took to the Internet to vent her frustration.

A media frenzy followed and her years of disability activism began. In 2010 she was approached to be second on the Dignity for Disability ballot, saying yes, she knew her calling had come.

Sadly number one on the ticket Paul Collier passed away a week before the election, and when his votes went to Kelly she was propelled in to state politics. An opportunity she has never taken lightly and today relishes. In her office in the corridors of state parliament Kelly speaks passionately as a seasoned politician.

As such she is aware that there are certain barriers to being in politics. However for Kelly it is not her disability but being young and female. Unwilling to confirm to suits and power dressing Kelly’s fishnets has turned heads in parliament.

“Why of course I should dress like a politician who is a 50 year old man. As a 25 year old woman that makes complete sense,” she says.

“The way we are dressed is looked at, not just for politicians but for many areas of life that don’t exist for men.

“For goodness sake how many times has Julia Gillard’s new glasses been mentioned in the news lately. It’s as if they have some direct effect over her brainwaves and her policies are now going to change because of these lovely glasses she’s now wearing.”

Being scrutinised for her fashion sense is not the only thing that Kelly and Prime Minister Julia Gillard have in common. She too was educated at South Australia’s Unley High School. However her time at university was spent learning French and Spanish and not student politics.

Yet Kelly does take her responsibility to public office very seriously. She understands the importance of being responsible to her constituents and is certainly not in it for the ‘celebrity’ factor.

Kelly is dedicated and focused. While she represents the Dignity for Disability party she makes sure she sees her work through the lens of a human rights advocate. Work she intends to continue well after this political chapter ends.

Yet when it does, Kelly implores: “I refuse to be defined as this girl who had this amazing opportunity. I want to be remembered as this person who was given this opportunity then worked pretty damn hard to keep it and did the best she could with it and hopefully went on to do more.”

Published on: Mar 10, 2013, Discordia