SI Autumn Masthead
Image: Lux and Us

Raising Women: Yvette and Sienna

Laura Peppas

On Yvette Berry’s first day in office as a Labor Minister, a fleeting question passed her mind: “How am I going to do this?”

The ‘this’ she was referring to wasn’t
 to do with her work in the assembly – rather, it was juggling the high-profile role with being a single mum to her two young children, Archer and Sienna.

Those feelings didn’t last of course; like many women before her, she was able to master the art of balancing children with the assembly.

“I think it really got better for women in the assembly after [former Chief Minister] Katy Gallagher,” Yvette says.

“She really paved the way for other women, being a parent and raising her own kids when she started working here. She made a lot of changes with the way this place operates and it just became the way things were, people’s attitudes adjusted and the culture changed. So sometimes I have to take my children with me to things, and people are okay with that.”

Yvette’s nine-year-old daughter Sienna may not be too far behind her in the political sphere: assertive, independent and never afraid to stand up for herself, Yvette admits she “wouldn’t be surprised” if she eventually followed in her footsteps.

YB2

“My mother tells me that she sees a lot of me in Sienna,” she says.

“Having a conversation with Sienna is like having a conversation with an adult. She’s very sure on the way she sits with different things. She doesn’t like the idea that there are people who are treated differently and she’ll always, always stand up for what she think is right.

“And that’s what I want – I want her to be really brave, to be able to hold her own in a respectful way, whether it’s in the playground, playing sport or having a conversation with adults at the dinner table.”

Growing up in Holt, not far
 from where she now lives in West Belconnen, Yvette says her own mother was like her in that she was often raising the children independently, due to her father’s busy schedule as a politician and before that, a firefighter.

YB3

“Mum was always there because dad was often working,” she says.

“She kept the house together, she was always helping with our homework, she cooked from scratch and made our own clothes. She was amazing really. She was so helpful with the kids and continues to be.”

It was a “massive shock” for the family when Yvette’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 10 years ago.

“The way she dealt with it was pretty amazing, she very much had the attitude of ‘what do I need to do now to move forward,’ and now years later the cancer is gone,” she says.

“I’ve got that outlook from her too, if there’s a problem you kind of go into that moment of shock but then figure out what to do. I think when you’re a mum, you’ve got to get on with things.”

YB4

Yvette describes her parenting style as laid-back.

“I’d prefer to sit down and have a conversation about something and work through it, rather than get into the punishment,” she says.

“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’d like to think by the time Sienna grows up, it’s not just about a person having power over another person. We think children know less than they do, but in fact, they know more than we think they do.”

YB5

One of Yvette’s biggest hopes for Sienna is that she remains her own person.

“I have a lot of fears for her as she grows up of course, like any parent…whether it’s social media, bullying or not being able to do what she wants to because she’s a woman,” she says.

“There’s still so much work to do in gender equality in particular – the fact that in sport, in particular, women still don’t get paid as much as men is shocking, and there are still certain attitudes towards working mothers. So I really do hope by the time Sienna enters the workforce, that has changed.”

With any luck, Sienna could play a part in changing that one day.

YB6

“Recently I attended a Canberra Capitals end of season dinner where [we learned] when coach Carrie
 Graf was seven years old she wanted to represent her school in the local cricket team and they said she couldn’t because she was a girl,” Yvette says.

“I dare someone to say that to Sienna – she wouldn’t take any of it.”

YB8

Photography by Lux & Us.

This article originally appeared as part of our Raising Women series in our Magazine: Break The Mould for Autumn 2016. Find out more about Magazine here.

Magazine Break The Mould Cover

user

Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

DVCS_leaderboard