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Empathy and Politics with Amy MacMahon MP

Updated: Apr 22

Episode 26 of The Professional Empathy Podcast

The Empathy Podcast

Show Notes / Timestamps / Video


On this instalment of The Empathy Podcast, Leanne welcomes Amy MacMahon to the show. Amy is the newly elected MP for South Brisbane, and her mission is to help empower disenfranchised communities and create a thriving society through communication and empathy. In this episode, Leanne and Amy discuss the limitations Amy and her colleagues face when trying to help their communities. Amy dives deep into the importance of having empathetic conversations at the grassroots level and listening to the frustrations of all people. She shares advice for aspiring politicians and offers insight into what a day in the life looks like for her. This is a truly illuminating and important episode.

Timestamps and Highlights:

[01:35] Amy shares a bit of her background and what drove her to pursue politics. She details her academic journey and her desire to enact both social and political change.

[07:32] Amy shares the benefits that come with being an MP. She tells of illuminating moments of finding common ground with people who disagree in her politics but agree on local issues. She details that from these conversations, she is able to draw out genuine connections.

[10:51] Amy defines the differences between surveys and face-to-face conversation when attempting to relate with people. She expresses the need for empathy when participating in personal connection and emphasis on listening with intent.

[14:47] Amy admits to there being some people in politics whose primary reason for being there is for personal and financial gain. She acknowledges the manipulation tactics some may use and points out that, for the most part, it’s these politicians who are not doing the work to communicate with the community.

[21:37] Amy praises a few of her colleagues whom she has worked with or has noticed them doing phenomenal work. A few she named have been Michael Berkman, a colleague and mentor; Larissa Waters, doing great work particularly for women; and New Zealander Chloe Swarbrick, who has brought transparency and radical honesty to politics.

[24:08] Amy offers advice for potential politicians. She emphasizes the importance of connecting with your community at a grassroots level by having conversation with an array of people. This allows you to have a good sense of what is going on in the community and can address what systemic changes need to be done.

[27:08] Amy shares her favorite aspects of the job. She expresses having a genuine interest in people and what is going on in their community and finds ways in which she can be of service. Overall, Amy finds this work rewarded and feels privileged to have the opportunity to interact with all kinds of people.

[33:18] Amy discusses a few of the challenges she experiences while in her position. She notes that one of the most challenging tasks is working on a desired outcome and being met with many roadblocks. Amy points out that this is 24/7 work and that she is nowhere near finished.

[36:00] Amy shares her final thoughts and gives advice to the public; she hones in on the importance of remembering the humanity in people. She acknowledges that politicians do not get into politics by accident and on one end, the criticism comes with the territory; nonetheless, this does not stop her from wanting to make a genuine connection and help the community.


  • “Maybe we don’t agree on these economic questions, but we do agree on this local issue and from there we can start to have a conversation.”

  • “I think a lot of political parties view the community as this hostile body that is something needed to be managed as opposed to what it is that makes up the world.”

  • “The pursuit of profits is not always met with empathy, connection, and justice.”

Key Points Discussed:

− Does empathy belong in politics?

− What are the benefits?

− Difference between surveys and face to face interactions

− What is the resistance in empathy and politics?

− Who standouts in the politics space?

− Advice for potential politicians

− What are the challenges in politics?

Connect with Amy:

− Website:

Listen to the Episode here:

Watch here

Hi! I'm Leanne Butterworth, Empathy Speaker and Educator, University Lecturer and Mental Health Advocate.

Empathy First is a Brisbane-based social enterprise offering Empathy workshops, online courses and individual Empathy coaching to help you build connection and strengthen your relationships for personal and professional success.

Contact me today and let's talk about how you can put Empathy First.

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