Devoted mum, management consultant, published author and now a councillor – what’s next for Ocean Grove dynamo Stephanie Asher. ELISSA FRIDAY made an appointment to find out.
Pictures: Joeseph Van der Hurk
Stephanie where did you grow up?
I was actually born in Adelaide but I grew up in North Balwyn in Melbourne. I went to school in Camberwell North and then moved to Geelong for about a year when I was about three. Now I’m in beautiful, sunny Ocean Grove and have been living here for 18 years.
Tell us about your studies?
I studied English literature at Monash University. Having done maths and science all the way through school I chose English possibly because it offered the most creative opportunities. The reason I chose the arts degree was because it was so broad and allowed for creativity in my career. My dad was a very senior executive at Ford and he travelled a lot. So he didn’t have the flexibility in his working life that I wanted in my work and that I would need as a parent.
Tell us about your family?
I’m married to Robin. I have three children, a 16-year-old boy, a nearly 14-year-old girl and nearly 12-year-old boy. We’re a very close and a very sports-orientated family.
So Stephanie, we’ll cut to the chase, what is your politics?
I think the most accurate description would be, towards the right economically and towards the left socially and environmentally. I’m an independent thinker.
Now you are a councillor, is it third time lucky or not? Were your ambitions set towards being mayor?
No, it’s not really third time lucky because I haven’t run for council before. I’m pleased to be able to contribute and do as much good as the system will allow me to do.
Did you put your hand up to be deputy mayor?
No, I didn’t because I didn’t want to be the token female. Once the mayor had been decided there was support for a female deputy but not a particular individual.
What are some of your ideas for the Geelong and the Bellarine?
Connecting the community to the decisions made at City Hall, I think that there is disconnection particularly in Bellarine with decisions made in Geelong.
How do you feel about there being only three female councillors?
Firstly they are terrific women, secondly it’s disappointing because it doesn’t reflect the population and thirdly you need 33 per cent on a board or in a group to have a meaningful impact on thinking styles, leadership and bias.
Is it a boys’ club?
Yes there is that.
You obviously have big political ambitions. Is this a stepping stone for State or Federal politics?
I’m interested in politics. I’m interested in finding the right place to have a voice and make a difference.
Aside from your political life now, outside of that you’re a business owner too?
I started out in public relations and established a marketing and publishing consultancy, more than 20 years ago. Since then I’ve established several other business and currently own a management consultancy with a team of a dozen people, which involves strategic and leadership related work. I enjoy the freedom and achieving the scope of the work I do. I can choose my own projects and elect the clients that I work with.
You recently wrote a book and had it published, what’s it about?
It’s the biography of Susan Alberti who is renowned in Australia for leading the charge or the catalyst for the women’s AFL. Susan was recently named Melburnian of the Year. She is Australia’s most recognised philanthropist for diabetes research and the leader of the charge for AFL Women. It’s currently the best seller on the Melbourne University publishing list. The idea and intention of the book is to help inspire people to give to medical research and a percentage of the proceeds from the book will go to medical research.
How did you and Susan Alberti meet?
I was introduced to Sue and I pitched the story and a screenplay for a movie to her. We clicked and she agreed. I did 50 interviews with different people, including the Hon Tony Abbot, Ita Buttrose, Sir ‘Gus’ Nossal, Frank Costa, Linda Dessau AC and spent a lot of time with Sue. It took probably six months from first conversations to manuscript, then another three months or so to printing.
It’s the perfect Christmas gift.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Spending time with my family, I think I’m also their taxi driver. Most of my spare time is family based and beach orientated. I also like talking to the animals; I have a beautiful Kelpie, two cats, seven chickens and a turtle that lives next door. We get fresh eggs every day, even though the kids aren’t so keen on eating eggs.
What would surprise people to know about you?
I have a motorcycle licence, but I don’t ride anymore. I had a bike in my twenties and I used to ride it to work.