Natasha Stott Despoja

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Natasha Stott Despoja
Natasha Stott Despoja Portrait 2012.jpg
Ambassador of Australia for Women
and Girls
Assumed office
16 December 2013
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Malcolm Turnbull
Preceded by Penny Williams
Leader of the Australian Democrats
In office
6 April 2001 – 21 August 2002
Deputy Aden Ridgeway
Preceded by Meg Lees
Succeeded by Brian Greig (interim)
Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats
In office
15 October 1997 – 6 April 2001
Leader Meg Lees
Preceded by Meg Lees
Succeeded by Aden Ridgeway
Senator for South Australia
In office
29 November 1995 – 30 June 2008
Preceded by John Coulter
Personal details
Born (1969-09-09) 9 September 1969 (age 47)
Adelaide, South Australia
Nationality Australian
Political party Australian Democrats
Spouse(s) Ian Smith
Children Conrad and Cordelia

Natasha Jessica Stott Despoja AM (born 9 September 1969) is Australia's former Ambassador for Women and Girls.[1] A former politician and former leader of the Australian Democrats, she was a Democrats senator for South Australia from 1995 to 2008. Stott Despoja was appointed to the Senate at the age of 26, and until Sarah Hanson-Young was elected in 2007, was previously the youngest woman to sit in the Parliament of Australia.[2]

Early life[edit]

Stott Despoja was born in Adelaide, the daughter of Shirley Stott Despoja, an Australian-born journalist with English heritage, and Mario Despoja, an immigrant from Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia). She was educated at Stradbroke Primary and Pembroke School and, later, the University of Adelaide where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1991. She was active in student politics, becoming president of the Students' Association of the University of Adelaide (SAUA) and serving as state women's officer for the National Union of Students in South Australia. She then worked as a political adviser and researcher to Democrat senators John Coulter (SA) and Cheryl Kernot (Qld).

Personal life[edit]

Stott Despoja married former Liberal party advisor, Ian Smith.[3] Her husband is considered to be one of Australia's most influential political lobbyists, is the founder of consultancy Bespoke Approach and has been described by ''The Power Index'' as "an unabashed Tory".[4]


On 29 November 1995, Stott Despoja was appointed to the casual vacancy created by the resignation of Coulter due to ill-health. She completed the remainder of Coulter's term and was re-elected at the 1996 election and 2001 election.

Stott Despoja was elected to the party's deputy leadership in 1997, under Meg Lees. At the time, she was party spokesperson for parliamentary portfolios including Science and Technology, Attorney General, Higher Education, IT, Employment and Youth Affairs.

During the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation in 1999, Stott Despoja, along with Andrew Bartlett, split from the party's other senators by opposing the package, which had been negotiated by Lees and prime minister John Howard. She said that she refused to break promises made by the party during the election. The party had gone to the election stating that they would work with whichever party formed government to improve their tax package. The Australian Democrats traditionally permitted parliamentary representatives to cast a conscience vote on any issue but, on this occasion, close numbers in the Senate placed greater pressure than usual on the dissenters.

In 1999, she was appointed a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum (WEF).[5]

Parliamentary leadership and deposition[edit]

Stott Despoja was elected leader on 6 April 2001, replacing Meg Lees, who resigned from the party in July 2002. Further public criticism and disputes between Democrat senators resulted in Stott Despoja's resignation as leader on 21 August 2002, following presentation by four of her six colleagues (those who had earlier enabled the passage of the GST) with a ten-point 'reform' agenda proposed by John Cherry.[6]

After 16 months in the job, Senator Stott Despoja finally decided she couldn't heal the rifts which had divided her seven-member party room. Her colleagues were apparently stunned by the resignation, but shouldn't have been. Four of them had brought the crisis to a head, forcing Stott Despoja to accept a package of reforms she was utterly opposed to.[7]

She announced her resignation in a speech to the Senate, concluding with a "pledge to bring the party back home to the members again",[8] and referring to her reluctance over colleagues' attitude towards her.

One colleague, Senator Murray, has said that he does not believe in ultimatums, yet one of his earliest communiques to the public and to me was to `shape up or ship out'. Some commentators have mistaken my relative public silence for weak leadership — my refusal to strike back aggressively, particularly in the public domain, as weakness. But I still believe that politics can be a civil discourse, and I choose not to inflame with returned invective.[8]

She was replaced as leader by Bartlett following a membership ballot interval during which Brian Greig acted in the position.

In 2004, Stott Despoja took 11 weeks' leave from the Senate following the birth of her first child before returning to full duties as Democrat spokesperson on, inter alia, Higher Education, Status of Women, and Work and Family.

During her political career she also introduced 24 Private Member's Bills on issues including paid maternity leave,[9][10] the Republic,[11][12] genetic privacy,[13][14] stem cells,[15] captioning [16][17] and same sex marriage.[18] Stott Despoja regularly attends the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.[19]

Retirement from Parliament[edit]

On 22 October 2006, after undergoing emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, she announced that she would not be contesting the 2007 election to extend her term beyond 30 June 2008.[20] She was the Australian Democrats' longest-serving senator.[21] Her retirement coincided with the ending of her party's federal parliamentary representation; the Democrats' support had collapsed after 2002 and they won no seats at the 2004 and 2007 half-senate elections.

On 13 June 2011, Stott Despoja was named a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the Parliament of Australia, particularly as a Senator for South Australia, through leadership roles with the Australian Democrats, to education, and as a role model for women.[22]

Later activities[edit]

She is a regular commentator in The Advertiser, a casual host on ABC 891 radio [23] and is the Thursday night guest panellist on Channel 10's The Project. She was previously a columnist for the Australian business news website Business Spectator.[24]

Stott Despoja is an Honorary Visiting Research Fellow at The University of Adelaide. Each year, she teaches winter school at The University of Adelaide with former Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, 'The Practice of Politics'.[25]

Currently Stott Despoja is a board member of non-profit organisations the South Australian Museum [26] and the Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD).[27] In June 2013, she retired from the Advertising Standards Board.[28] She was a deputy-chair at beyondblue (Australia's national depression initiative)[29] until she took on the role of ambassador for women and girls. As of 21 July 2015, Stott Despoja is a Patron of the Burnet Institute (Australia's largest virology and communicable disease research institute) and was a board member from 2008 to 2013.[30]

She is an Ambassador for Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA),[31] The Orangutan Project (TOP);[32] secondbite;[33] and the HIV/AIDS anti-stigma campaign, ENUF, (along with her husband Ian Smith).[34] She is on the Advisory Panel of the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF).[35]

In the past few years, Stott Despoja has also been an election observer for the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Nigeria (2011);[36] has visited Burkina Faso for Oxfam (2012);[37] and has been to Laos (2011)[38] and Burma (2013)[39] with The Burnet Institute.

In July 2013, Stott Despoja was named Chair of the Foundation to Prevent Violence against women and their children,[40] a joint initiative of the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments which will be based in Melbourne. The foundation aims to educate the community by building partnerships with business, philanthropic organisations and government.

In December 2013, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced the appointment of Stott Despoja as Australia's new ambassador for women and girls.[1]

Stott Despoja was mentioned in June 2014 as a possible replacement for Kevin Scarce as the next Governor of South Australia,[41] however Hieu Van Le was chosen.[42]



  • Giving Generously, Artemis, 1996[43]
  • DIY Feminism, Allen and Unwin, 1996[44]
  • Collective Wisdom, interviews with prominent Australians, Clown, 1998[45]
  • Free East Timor, Australia's culpability in East Timor's genocide, Random House, 1998 [46]
  • Goodbye normal gene: confronting the genetic revolution, Pluto Press, 1999
  • What Women Want, Random House, 2002
  • Time for a Change, Australia in the 21st Century, Hardie Grant Books, 2006[47]
  • Mother Who? Personal stories and insights on juggling family, work and life, Big Sky Publishing, 2007

Essays and reporting[edit]

  • 'Higher Education in Perspective', Current Affairs Bulletin, 1996
  • 'Personal and Private', Alternative Law Journal, 1997
  • 'Policy forum: the Junior Pay Rates Inquiry', Australian Economic Review, 1999
  • 'Leadership', Sydney Papers, 2001
  • 'Terror in the USA', The Asia-Australia Papers, 2001
  • 'The Human Genome Project: how do we protect Australians?', Medical Journal ofAustralia, 2000
  • 'ANZUS? ANZ who?' (with Senator Andrew Bartlett), Australian Journal ofInternational Affairs, 2001
  • 'Towards a National Interest Commissioner', CEDA Bulletin, 2001
  • 'If I were Attorney-General', Alternative Law Journal, 2003
  • 'The first in human genetics regulation', Australasian Science, 2005
  • 'A brief look at the history of privacy', Australian Quarterly, 2007
  • Stott Despoja, Natasha (2014). "Women, peace and security : Australia in the UNSC" (PDF). International Humanitarian Law Magazine (2): 14–15. Retrieved 2015-09-18. 


  1. ^ a b "Former Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja Australia's new ambassador for women and girls". Sydney Morning Herald. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-16. 
  2. ^ Rob Lundie & Martin Lumb "Research Note 13 1998-99 Update on Selected Australian Political Records" (Parliament of Australia). Access date: 20 August 2013.
  3. ^ "Natasha Stott Despoja glams up for the Logies". Retrieved 2015-06-26. 
  4. ^ Knott, Matthew. "Lobbyists - Ian Smith". The Power Index. Retrieved 2015-06-26. 
  5. ^ "Natasha Stott Despoja". Australian Centre for Leadership for Women. Retrieved 22 May 2012. 
  6. ^ "Senator Cherry speaks about Natasha Stott Despoja". ABC News Online. 21 August 2002. Retrieved 2006-12-08. 
  7. ^ "Stott Despoja resigns leadership". ABC News Online. 21 August 2002. Retrieved 2006-12-08. 
  8. ^ a b Stott Despoja, Natasha (21 August 2002). "MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST : Australian Democrats: Leadership". Hansard. Canberra: Parliament of Australia website. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  9. ^ Haxton, Nance (16 February 2004). "Democrats launch paid maternity leave scheme". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Preston, Mike. "Paid maternity leave: is Australia ready?". Smart Company. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Holmes, Brenton. "Tracking the push for an Australian republic". Parliament of Australia website. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Kirk, Alexandra (1 December 2005). "Renewed push for Australian republic". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  13. ^ O'Brien, Kerry (9 August 2000). "Govt inquiry to examine genetic testing privacy issues". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Genetic Privacy and Non-discrimination Bill 1998 [2008]". Parliament of Australia website. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  15. ^ Kirk, Alexandra (8 August 2006). "Stott Despoja proposes Private Members Bill on stem cell research". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Lloyd, Karen. "Deaf Australia applauds investigation into access to electronic media". Deaf Australia Inc. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Captioning for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired". Parliament of Australia website. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Same-Sex Marriages Bill 2006 [2008] – Parliament of Australia". Parliament of Australia website. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  19. ^ "Senator Andrew Bartlett speaks about Sydney: Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – Adjournment Speech". 2000-04-04. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  20. ^ "Stott Despoja to bow out of politics". ABC News Online. 22 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-22. 
  21. ^ "So long, it's been good to see you". Sydney Morning Herald. 21 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  22. ^ "Natasha Stott Despoja AM". Australian Honours Database. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  23. ^ "Natasha Stott Despoja". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  24. ^ Business Spectator (2010). The Spectators: Natasha Stott-Despoja. Retrieved 21 June 2010.
  25. ^ Gibson, Candy. "Winter School gets political". The University of Adelaide. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  26. ^ "Museum Board". South Australian Museum. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  27. ^ "Advisory Council". Museum of Australian Democracy. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  28. ^ "Retirees from Ad Standards Board". Advertising Standards Bureau. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  29. ^ Business Spectator (28 Dec 2009) 'A New Year, A New Leader?: Natasha Stott Despoja Interview'. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  30. ^ Morgan, Angus (21 July 2015) "Natasha Stott Despoja returns to Burnet". Burnet Institute News. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  31. ^ "About us Natasha Stott Despoja". Ovarian Cancer Australia. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  32. ^ "Natasha Stott Despoja, Ian Smith and son Conrad join as ambassadors". The Orangutan Project. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  33. ^ "Patrons and Ambassadors". SecondBite. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  34. ^ Magnusson, Michael (13 February 2013). "Natasha Stott Despoja joins ENUF". Gay News Network. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  35. ^ "APF Advisory Panel Bios". Australian Privacy Foundation. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  36. ^ "Nigerian Elections Hold the Promise of Setting New Integrity Standard, NDI Mission Finds". National Democratic Institute. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  37. ^ "Natasha Stott Despoja in Burkina Faso with Oxfam to meet families affected by the West Africa food crisis". Oxfam Australia. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  38. ^ "Natasha Stott Despoja AM reflects on her recent trip to Laos". Burnet Institute. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  39. ^ Turnbull, Jeff (7 February 2013). "Natasha Stott Despoja meets her political hero Aung San Suu Kyi". Australian Associated Press. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  40. ^ Home - Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children, Australia
  41. ^ High-flying women in the mix to be SA's next Governor The Advertiser 7 June 2014
  42. ^ Hieu Van Le to be next SA Governor, from war-torn Vietnam to vice-regal post ABC 26 June 2014
  43. ^ This needs checking. I suspect this is actually a contribution to Jocelynne Scutt's work Living generously.
  44. ^ Tuntuni Bhattacharyya (1996-11-06). "and ain't i a woman?: Kick-arse feminism?". Green Left Weekly. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  45. ^ "Collective Wisdom Prominent Australians on Success and the Future". Dennis Jones & Associates. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  46. ^ Jim Aubrey (May 1998). Free East Timor: Australia's Culpability in East Timor's Genocide. Random House Australia. ISBN 978-0-09-183917-8. 
  47. ^ "Time for change : Australia in the 21st century". UTS Library. Retrieved 2014-08-12. 

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Meg Lees
Leader of the Australian Democrats
Succeeded by
(interim) Brian Greig
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Penny Williams
Ambassador of Australia for Women and Girls