Senator Chris Evans, also Leader of the Senate, and Minister for Tertiary Education, announced today that he was moving on from politics. I worked for Chris between August 2005 and December 2006 when he held the shadow portfolio of Indigenous Affairs (he moved to resources after Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard took the leadership). It is sad that Parliament is losing such a considered person, but I know politics can pollute one's family life... and to a degree, even one's sense of self.
Chris hired me after I replied to an ad in the newspaper for Indigenous Affairs adviser. I still to this day remember the interview vividly. He had this way of making you unsure of what he truly thought, and a fantastic dry wit. I later heard he hired me because he thought my extreme idealism would balance out his conservative tendencies - but I always knew (or perhaps just clung to the belief) that deep down he held many of the same leftie ideals as me. In those early days, when I entered the halls of Parliament as a complete novice, he taught me about pragmatism and always taking a considered approach - not rushing into things. He showed me how to cut through emotive hyperbolism with sincere and sensible appeals to people's better natures. He reminded me that politics was the art of what is possible. But he also inspired me to think about the big picture, to think afresh and not get bogged down into old boxes of thinking.
As time progressed and the crashing loud waves of politics and government eroded the perfection of my ideals - and left me with a more complicated world view, I often thought about the journey I would have never gone on without him giving me a chance. There weren't many advisers in Parliament that had come in without party connections, without an illustrious private school education. I never even felt comfortable walking into a shop to buy a suit. But I cared deeply about the area (and still do), and that was just as important to him. I think that was a measure of depth and character that is not always obvious in our parliamentary leaders. The team he built around him over many years (he spent 20 years in Parliament) included amazing staff who had been there almost the whole time. I wish him the best.
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Rita worked in federal politics for five years with a Labor Minister Jenny Macklin and previously in Opposition (with Jenny Macklin MP and Senator Chris Evans).