NSW Minister for Women: ‘I want to create positive change for women’
MP Tanya Davies says she draws on the Bible to give her the reassurance and confidence to keep going during hard times
Tanya Davies was thrown into the spotlight in early 2017 when she was announced as the new Minister for Women, Mental Health and Ageing in the New South Wales Cabinet. Immediately, the state parliament member for Mulgoa in western Sydney was identified as “personally pro-life” after a question from a journalist about her position on abortion.
What was missing from the news reports at the time was that Davies herself had experienced “personal difficulties having a family,” and that she had “gone through the grief of losing babies and all that entails.”
Davies reiterated that she does in fact support a women’s right to choose the pregnancy path that is best for her. She says the controversial topic should not divide women, but create positive change to better support women and girls who might seek more information or consultation regarding their pregnancy options.
When asked how she plans to navigate the perceived tension between her personal views on abortion and the views of the electorate, Davies said, “If I personally had to make the choice for my body and my baby, I would do everything in my power to preserve life,” Davies said.
But in the same breath she says that is only her opinion, and that those who hold different opinions on the issue should also be heard and respected.
“[Abortion] is a deeply personal and deeply challenging topic for most women, and their families, if their families are involved. It’s not a light-hearted topic to talk about.
“My motivation, my drive – and it comes back to my faith – is one of absolute compassion, of empathy to that woman and to that girl for her circumstance. And my drive is to ensure that, where possible, a government structure can be strengthened and enhanced to ensure that each woman receives exactly the care, the information, and the support that she needs for that time in her life.
“We don’t live in a perfect world and there are some women who through rape, incest, sex slavery, or underage marriage [will] find themselves pregnant. There are very complicated scenarios that need to be treated with immense sensitivity with appropriate support, counselling, guidance and help afterwards,” Davies said.
“I will never tell anyone what to do with their life at all.” – Tanya Davies
Her own views derive from her Christian faith, a fact that she does not shy away from. Davies says she is personally pro-life for several reasons, including a belief that God is the one who gives life and the one who takes it away.
“I will never tell anyone what to do with their life at all. I respect a woman and a man to choose the life that they want to choose, when they’ve got the power to do so.”
A pastor’s daughter, Davies grew up with strong Christian role models in her parents and grandparents (her grandfather was instrumental in the construction of the Russian Orthodox Church that still stands in Lidcombe in Sydney’s west). She honoured their influence in her maiden speech to NSW Parliament in June 2011.
“Like Esther, I believe that I have come to this place for such a time as this.” – Tanya Davies
But she also referenced another role model, a woman named Esther, from the Old Testament. She said, “God raised [Esther] up out of anonymity to become queen in the land of her captors. God elevated her to a place of pivotal influence for one purpose – to save her people from annihilation.”
“Like Esther, I believe that I have come to this place for such a time as this. I believe that we all have come to this place for such a time as this. A time for stewardship, not squandering. A time for courage, not cowardice. A time for service, not selfishness. A time for visionary ambition, not indecision. A time for compassion, not coldness. A time for steadfast Christian values.”
And Davies has had to act on those convictions during her time as an MP. Davies says she draws on the Bible to give her the reassurance and confidence to keep going during hard times.
“There are times where the opposition or the heat or the attacks may come, but they’re the moments I just reflect back on what the Bible says which is that in the end times, people will hate righteousness and godliness, and what Jesus said in terms of taking up your cross and following [him].”
For Davies, following in the steps of Jesus means being there for the downtrodden, the needy, and the vulnerable.
“I believe with God at work there’s an unfair advantage that I can tap into.” – Tanya Davies
“That’s the heart, the motivation of Jesus,” said Davies, “so to have that in me, it applies to every area. I always have the lens of ‘how is this going to help the community at the end of the day?’”
She concedes that there is definitely more opposition today that when she first entered politics almost a decade ago. The challenges facing modern society are increasingly more complex according to Davies, but she says that the answer is to seek the wisdom of God.
“I believe with God at work there’s an unfair advantage that I can tap into. I just continue to remain focused on my role and my job, serving to the very best of my personal ability, asking [God] for wisdom and insight. That’s my heart’s desire: to be a greater servant, to be more effective with having that connection with God and his leading and his wisdom and his insight.
“I hope that the aroma that comes with me is sweet. The occasions I have had to share with other MPs about my faith, well, that’s me making a difference in their world at that time.”
She hopes that investment bankers, truck drivers, businessmen and women, and all kinds of Christian people are doing the same thing in their own spheres.
“We’ve got a great message to share, and I hope people are sharing it.”