As first-time female federal MPs, a common question we both heard during our campaigns from well-meaning members of the public was "Why would you want to do that?"
They asked because they looked at the culture of our parliament and politics and wondered why any woman would want to be part of it. Parliament is too often a place where women's experience of working there is fundamentally different, and worse, than men's.
As the bravery of Brittany Higgins in publicly sharing her experience as a ministerial staffer shows, Parliament House can also be a dangerous place for women to work.
But it shouldn't be. Women who want to work in politics should not be afraid for their safety, their reputation or their mental wellbeing. Their family, friends and members of the community shouldn't have to pose well-meaning questions about what they were thinking in choosing to work in such an environment. Women should not be left dealing with alleged criminal behavior on their own, without appropriate structures and support.
Our community as a whole suffers if women decide to make the self-preserving choice to stay away from politics because it is an unsafe and hostile environment for them to work in. It's worth restating the obvious; that women make up more than half of our population, and we deserve to be represented by people who can see our experience outside the reductive and rage-inducing prism of being "a father of daughters".
Beyond this, there is evidence from around the world that women's leadership styles are highly effective at tackling the complex challenges we currently face, including the COVID-19 pandemic. We all miss out if women are not in the room, and if our voices are not heard when crucial decisions are being made.
So what do we do to turn our parliament into a workplace, and politics into a profession, in which everyone is treated with respect and able to succeed no matter what their gender?
We cannot continue to tolerate a workplace culture which too often allows gendered misuse of power to seemingly go unpunished - or worse, where it is the victims who experience damage to their careers, their reputations, their health.
The first part of the answer is to admit we have a serious cultural and structural problem. An investigation into workplace culture could be a good start here, as long as it is genuinely independent, thorough, and its findings are taken seriously by the people who hold the most power in the building on the hill - the Prime Minister and his cabinet.
The second part is to reform the workplace structures that entrench a culture of misogyny and inequality. The way people in ministers' and MPs' offices are employed means they really have nowhere independent to go when they need to raise allegations of assault, harassment or problems with workplace culture. Their boss is the minister or MP, and that boss has a political interest in making sure the allegation does not become public or create any waves.
Public service structures set up under the Department of Finance are the only other avenue for employees to take, but these structures have been established to deal with the different workplace environment of the public service.
Establishing an independent structure within the parliament that can provide advice, counselling and support, and possibly even conduct investigations and initiate sanctions, would provide everyone who works in the parliament with a genuine avenue to have their complaint taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.
Members of parliament also need to be prepared to unpick and overcome their own biases when it comes to hiring and supporting staff. Jobs in politics are necessarily personal - offices are small, hours are gruelling, and absolute trust between staff and boss is essential.
But all of this means that ministers and MPs tend to employ the people they feel most comfortable around - people who look like them, sound like them, and think like them.
In a parliament where we still have more men than women elected, and where men hold the absolute majority of senior positions within the Morrison government, that often translates into similar gender imbalances in ministerial and parliamentary offices.
It shouldn't take the bravery of yet another woman describing her horrific experience in her workplace to prompt change to the structures and culture of our parliament. But MPs can honor Ms Higgins' bravery, and that of women who have spoken up before her, by doing the hard work to create genuine workplace change.
One of the reasons we both got elected to Parliament was to make sure women's voices are heard when decisions are being made that affect us all. Our parliament must be a safe place for women for that to happen.
- Peta Murphy and Kate Thwaites are Labor MPs representing the Victorian federal seats of Dunkley and Jagajaga respectively.