Woman Mack, Jenni

Consumer Activist

Written by Kate Moore, Australian National University

Jenni Mack was born in 1960 in Sydney. Her mother was a stay at home parent who was involved in community work. Her father, Ted Mack, was involved in local government during the 1970s and became the Mayor of North Sydney, before moving on to become a high profile, independent member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and then the Member for North Sydney in the Commonwealth Parliament in 1990. As a child, Jenni was also influenced by the newly emerging feminist movement. She was educated at the local schools, and describes herself at high school as being in a slightly rebellious but high achieving group of girls who were 'questioning things'. (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/jenni-mack/)

Jenni started a journalism degree in Sydney, but moved to North Queensland where she stayed for the next 10 years, managing her partner's business and then training as a midwife. She eventually finished her degree at the University of Queensland and while working as a journalist formed an ambition to work in advocacy and politics. She met the Democrats Senator, Cheryl Kernot, who encouraged her to apply for a media position with the Party. Jenni's application was successful and she moved to Canberra where she enjoyed the challenges of the work. After 3 years she took a job as CEO of the Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations, a job that she loved.

Jenni is married and has two daughters. She left full time work when she had her first child, and now works on a range of governing boards and advisory committees. One of her most prominent positions is as Chair of Choice, Australia's premier consumer advocacy organisation. Under her leadership, the organisation is taking a higher public advocacy profile and is challenging the practices of some of the biggest businesses in Australia. She says the organisation is now 'pushing boundaries, being a bit disruptive, being innovative'. The pushback from the powerful interests can be intimidating, but Jenni's passion for social justice keeps her going, and she finds satisfaction 'when you can speak out for those who don't have power in their own right'. Jenni stresses that change takes time and it is important to be patient, keep moving forward and keep the end in mind (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/jenni-mack/).

She believes it is important for women to be seen in leadership positions as they provide role models for younger women. She acknowledges that leadership is not easy, and stresses the importance of having the backing of a strong community. Her advice to women considering taking on a leadership role is not to be afraid to ask for help in juggling roles as mother, family member and community leader. She urges women to push a bit harder over what help they need, and not to be shy of asking for things like additional income (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/jenni-mack/). Jenni's leadership style is very much a consensus builder. Leadership, she says, 'involves having a clear vision of where you want to go, a plan to get there and accepting that it may take time but is about nudging things forward all the time' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/jenni-mack/).

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