I grew up in a single parent family which had a profound affect on my life and set me on a political path.
After fleeing a very violent family environment my mother raised four young traumatised children on her own, in an era where divorce was not easy to obtain.
My interest in politics began after I also experienced domestic violence from the father of my daughter. These experiences of family violence made me examine the way women are treated in the home and in the wider world.
I felt there was not enough being done to stop violence against women, and I thought if there were more women in politics this issue would get the attention it deserves.
I had no clue about how to get into politics but I thought I needed some academic qualifications behind me, and after years of study I obtained a BA in Sociology and Professional Writing, a Graduate Diploma of Law, and a Master of Marketing Communication.
I attended meetings of both the Democrats and the ALP to see which political party best suited my values.
My first experience with the ALP was not positive. I attended a branch in the ACT which comprised mostly of men who were either economists or lawyers. I was most often ignored in the meetings as well as the social gatherings afterwards. This was something I had never experienced before but it taught me an important lesson ... politics is not for the faint hearted.
I moved from the ACT across the border to Queanbeyan and I thought I'd see if the Queanbeyan ALP branch was more welcoming than the one in Canberra. It was, and for a number of years I became a very conscientious member of the Labor Party family in the Eden Monaro electorate, and for the last two years of my ALP membership I was the President of the Queanbeyan branch.
Early on I made it known to my fellow ALP members that I wanted to become the federal candidate because of my belief that we need more women in our parliaments.
To become the federal candidate I learned very quickly it was a difficult thing to achieve.
Firstly I had to dispel a perception held by many members that a woman couldn't win the seat of Eden Monaro. Fortunately, there was research, conducted by a previous sitting ALP Member, that gender was not a major concern for the electorate.
About nine months prior to when I thought the 2007 federal election would be called I started to visit the branches within the electorate to promote both myself and the research.
I was winning ground and then about six months after I started visiting branches three men joined the race.
One of the men was the previous federal candidate (a member of the Queanbeyan branch). Another man, who didn't live in Eden Monaro, was brought into the race by Bob McMullin (a long term politician from the ACT), and the third man lived in Yass and had a one issue platform – immigration.
As soon as Bob McMullin's protege entered the race the media became interested. Even though I was a respected Branch President and a viable contender I received poor media coverage – in a major newspaper story my first name was spelt Tony (a boy's name), my surname was spelt incorrectly, and I was portrayed as not being a likely contender. In other media coverage I was mostly absent from the news stories.
If that wasn't bad enough, Kevin Rudd and the ALP hierarchy in Sydney decided to bypass the proper process and impose Mike Kelly as the candidate. At that time Mr Kelly wasn't living in Eden Monaro and if I recall correctly he wasn't a member of the Labor Party.
I'd spent years working very hard for the ALP and I was upset that another bloke was going to become a member of parliament (I knew the ALP would win Eden Monaro in the 2007 election because I was aware of how much money the Unions and the ALP were pouring into the electorate).
I resigned from the ALP and with the help of another branch member (who also resigned over what happened to me) we created our own national Political Party called Hear Our Voice.
In only one month and one day we created a national political party, which had never been done before at the federal level. Despite having created history by establishing a national political party in such a short time we didn't get a mention in the media.
Time was against us but we managed to come up with a way to help fund our ageing population, which the CEO of Council on the Ageing endorsed. Despite having the support of a peak industry body we got no media coverage – and without the media reporting on our policies I had little chance of getting elected.
I couldn't tackle the commercial media networks but I decided to see if I could take on the ABC for their inadequate coverage of anyone other than the major parties.
I approached a number of university law faculties to see if they would help me and I got some interest, but we ran out of time as the election was fast approaching.
I decided to run for the Senate because aspiring politicians who do not have a high profile and do not belong to a major political party have more chance of becoming a Senator than running for the House of Reps.
Despite all our efforts I wasn't elected. We knew the reason was because we didn't have the money or resources to promote Hear Our Voice, nor did we get adequate media coverage.
To get elected to parliament in Australia you really need the backing of a major political party (who do have the money, resources and profile to get their candidates elected).
Welcome to politics in Australia.
In 2012 I got elected to local government (Queanbeyan Council) and I learned more valuable lessons about politics – you need to be part of a team that has the numbers or you won't achieve a lot, and that's even if you have great ideas that will benefit your local area.
When I was on Council there were councillors who blocked some great projects from happening, and their motive was to prevent other councillors, particularly the Mayor, from achieving election promises.
That's politics for you!
I have decided not to run again for a political position because I want to put my efforts into fighting for political equality for women.
After years of research into the reasons for the under representation of women in parliament I founded Hear Our Voice, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to spreading the message that women's voices matter.
Knowing what I know and having experienced politics first hand, I believe if we leave things to chance equal representation in parliament may never happen. That's why Hear Our Voice wants our Constitution changed to enshrine in legislation that men and women have equal representation in parliament.
And while we're at it, let's create a new political system that women have an equal say in designing and one that is better for us all.
There is a better way and together we can change the world for the better.
I am the brother of Toni McLennan, founder of Hear Our Voice (HOV).
I am 59 years old and I live in Sydney. I decided to join the team at HOV because I have three sisters and the fact their representation in parliament is not guaranteed equally and fairly is something I think is a grave injustice.
Growing up with a single parent, my mother, who had to raise four children unsupported and alone, due to the domestic violence she suffered, taught me valuable lessons about duty, commitment and incredible hard work that many women endure to support their families.
Men enjoy the lion's share in our society when it comes to work, careers and political representations, sometimes through unearned merit because of that age old patriarchal privilege.
It is time to have a level playing field … and now is the time for equal representation in our parliaments, enshrined into our Constitution.
I have always had an abiding interest in politics and was fascinated and appalled by the dreadful treatment my sister endured at the hands of a sexist political system.
I wholeheartedly endorse her campaign, through Hear Our Voice, to bring change to our Constitution for the sake of true fairness for all Australians, now and in the future.