After weeks on the road from Perth, Curtin graduate Jade Herron arrived in Canberra to take on her first job as a professional journalist at 2SM radio.
“As a [journalism] student you take what you can get, because I also studied international relations I was actually recommended for political news. Then I secured the job in Parliament House,” Jade said.
“I always wanted to drive across Australia so I left earlier and I drove from Perth along the coast to Canberra.”
Back in Perth she organised her accommodation online, but when she got to her new place it didn’t quite look like the pictures.
Basically it was a bit of a shit-hole and probably known by police.
“It was a very tricky transition—coming from one side of the country to the other without viewing a home is quite overwhelming,” Jade said.
“It just didn’t feel like home and I had to find something else pretty quickly,” Jade said.
A few weeks and almost 4,000 kilometres earlier, Jade was getting in her packed car and driving away from her home in Mandurah.
“I had to say goodbye to my family and my dog and all of my friends. It was definitely a bit confronting—but also exciting to be doing the next thing, and at the same time travelling to a place I have always wanted to,” Jade said.
“Across Australia you see amazing things and it really puts everything into perspective. So often with university you don’t get the chance to do things and just really immerse yourself in your own thoughts.”
When asked how she felt at the beginning of her journey, Jade said:
“I felt really successful and empowered because I was going to do something that I had always dreamed of doing.”
But her first day in Canberra had shaped up to be the opposite of a dream.
Jade spent the next few days living out of a tent she came across Australia with, searching for somewhere to live from an internet café.
“Then I had to go to Sydney for training, so I had to leave Canberra, so I had to drop all my things at my house, but I couldn’t so I left it all in my car,” Jade said.
She drove to Sydney and did her two weeks of training.
Upon Jade’s return she managed to find a house and the chaos settled like the ocean she so dearly missed at home.
She had finally realised her dream.
Jade described her first day on the job at Parliament as a “blur”.
“When I first got there I had to pay for parking. I had to fight for parking in a public area and go through so much security to meet my colleagues, who signed me in,” she said.
“That day I started writing stories to go to air—basically I had to learn very quickly. It was a sink or swim situation and I wanted to prove to my employer that I could do a good job.
“I just kind of dove in and got stuck into it, and the next day I had all my passes and security stuff done and I was able to park at a particular staff carpark.”
“Then you go three storeys underground and you come up through security and you get checked every time you go in and out of the building.”
Nowadays, Parliament is not so much of a blur for Jade.
“I have a regular routine and I know where to be and what rooms to go in, it’s not so scary,” She said.
“I don’t have to look at the carpet to make sure that it’s the senate side or the representative side, because I know the building a little bit better now.”
Turns out the Senate side carpet is red and the House of Representatives carpet is green.
Jade said the parliament was full of quirky details.
“You have also got to be dressed top to toe. You have got to be dressed very nicely in order to work at parliament house. So there’s rules such as having to wear a jacket in question time,” she said.
“You won’t get let in if you’re not. You are not allowed to take photos with your phone. You are not allowed to take in a water bottle.
“You’ve got to swipe your access card everywhere as you go, so security can check on what you’re doing.
“There are some funny rules that I have definitely had to get used to.”
Jade mentioned that it was quite easy to get lost, because of a rule against maps.
“Because of security, there are no maps in parliament house. So you have to quite literally remember everything,” she said.
“You can also get stuck in floors. Some floors are open to the public, but sometimes you are in the wrong one and the lifts won’t work and you just stand in the lift for a little while and realise it’s not moving.”
What Hogwarts themed hell is the Parliament?
Despite map-hating, iron-clad security, the place is not without its hazards.
In her first week on the job, Jade recalled a day when she got in-between Barnaby Joyce and a determined photographer who forced her aside.
“Other things that have happened. I accidentally got into a lift with Bill Shorten after a press conference,” she said.
“I didn’t notice that he was in the lift and it was a private lift and I just kind of pushed my way in and thought I was just getting to the top floor early to get the story out first.
“As the doors closed we made eye contact and I felt incredibly embarrassed. I have never gone so red in my whole life.”
But it isn’t all bad, Jade said she now loved her position at the big house and according to her, politicians aren’t actually that bad.
“A lot of people tend to put politicians down and I was always aware of that as a young person. But I actually disagree with the general consensus that politicians are very spoilt, not hardworking people and are out of touch,” she said.
“I think quite the opposite. Politicians work ridiculous hours. They work representing a very diverse range of people and it can be really difficult to do their job and I think in general they do a very good job and I think they represent the country really well.
“In terms of politicians on a personal level. Most of them are absolutely delightful.
“In the morning I will quite often say ‘would you like to have a chat this morning senator’ and they will smile at you and come over to the doorstop and literally say ‘what would you like to talk about this morning ‘and have a chat to you about any questions you have about policy or legislation.”
Jade couldn’t have dreamed of a better job coming straight out of university and she said she planned on hanging around Parliament for a little while longer.
Jade’s inspirational journey from the Tent Embassy to Parliament House shows her strength and resolve, and for the family and friends who are thinking of her back in Perth, it comes as no surprise.