Whoa! Bring in the heavy weights! Chikarovski is a well-known woman of politics, worldly experience, determination and success. As a former Liberal (NSW) party leader – the first Australian woman ever to lead a major political party – wife, ex-wife, mother, business woman and soon to be grandmama, Kerry Chikarovski, 55, comes to Soul Sessions to open up about the challenges of being a wife and mother in a male dominated industry. A matter close to her heart is the art of dealing with spectacular failure, gracefully.
When I was growing up, when I was younger, there were all those books which taught you. In fact, they were called, superwoman, superwoman 1 how to, superwoman how to, superwoman how to 2, 3 and 4. And I read all those books and I believed all that rubbish. And I for a long time lived by that. But let me say to you now that having lived the life I lived, I think it’s impossible to be superwoman. So I’ll put that on the table. I’ll tell you how I got to that decision in a little while.
I’m lucky enough to have a father who have worked at the United Nations. Grew up in New York in a time of pretty interesting political unrest. I actually made up my mind at 12 that I was going to be a politician.
You’re probably aware that I lost the leadership of the liberal party in 2002. I put an enormous amount of effort into rebuilding and I think repositioning the liberal party and all that stuff. It started to show, in spite of what would people tell you to the contrary, we actually started to improve on the polls. We’ve been ahead for about 6 or 7 months. I had 5 people come in to my office 1 day and say, “You need to go. You need to resign. We can’t win the election”. They gave me 3 reasons which I thought were pretty spurious.
The 3rd one was, well look if you don’t go and there’s a vote and you lose, you’d be really seriously embarrassed. I went to bed that night and I was lying in bed and I’m thinking to myself, are they right?Would this be such humiliation that I would never recover?
History will tell you that I lost by vote, not that I’m counting, but lost by 1 vote. And you know I wasn’t devastated. I didn’t feel humiliated. I walked into a press conference with my head held high. But I know that if I haven’t gone there, for the rest of my life, it would have gnawed away at me. So we talk about what failure does to you. Well I often think it’s not what failure does to you, it’s sometimes not having the courage to have a go, which can really hurt you.