Former City of Whittlesea councillor Emilia Sterjova, pictured right in 2019, when she was elected mayor, with Cr Alahna Desiato elected deputy mayor.

By Tricia Mifsud

AUSTRALIA’S youngest ever female mayor Emilia Sterjova has been named in the Australian Financial Review Top 100 Future Leaders list.

Recognition on the list allows high-achieving university students to accelerate their career options and engage with Australia’s top employers.

Ms Sterjova, who was elected mayor of the City of Whittlesea in 2019 at the age of 22, said she was humbled to be recognised among some of the country’s best young leaders.

“It really means a lot to me and I’d like to congratulate all of the other students, whether they made it to the top 100 or not,” she said.

“I was really inspired by their stories and I also hope to encourage other young people as one of my greatest passions is being able to mentor and encourage young people.

“I just hope that any young person reading this story, feels comfortable and confident to put their hand up for opportunities and to also give back to their community.”

To be named in the top 100, Ms Sterjova firstly submitted an application at the recommendation of a friend. The extensive process to determine the 100 successful students then included video, live and group interviews and a psychometric test.

Ms Sterjova, the only La Trobe University student to be named in the top 100, said she was humbled to be named alongside some of Australia’s most inspiring young leaders.

“I’m really grateful to be recognised but I also hope to encourage other young people to volunteer in their community,” she said.

“The other candidates were outstanding recipients. Honestly, it was such an honour to even be considered in the same category as them but this recognition allows me to now continue to work hard in my community so I can do more pro bono work in the City of Whittlesea and even beyond.”

Ms Sterjova made headlines in 2020 when she was disendorsed the Labor party in order to align herself with non-Labor councillors and be elected mayor of the City of Whittlesea.

She was a City of Whittlesea councillor during a tumultuous time, which included several sackings of chief executives, accusations of bullying towards councillors and eventually, former Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek sacked the council, placing it in the hands of administrators.

Despite the controversies, Ms Sterjova said she was ‘incredibly proud’ of what she was able to achieve while mayor, particularly for the younger members of the shire.

“It was a very steep learning curve for me but I was so humbled and grateful to have received such a privilege,” she said.

“I established the youth advisory committee to enable young people to be involved in the decision making process of council.

“I introduced live streaming of meetings to improve council’s transparency, approved development to create thousands of new jobs and even advocated for better road and transport infrastructure to ease the congestion on our roads.”

Ms Sterjova is studying to become a lawyer, and actively volunteers at the Wills and Wishes clinic in Whittlesea and JobWatch.

While Ms Sterjova doesn’t have any ambitions to return to politics, she said would only consider it should there be a shift in culture at local councils.

“I’m not thinking about running for politics just yet. I’m busy finishing my university degrees and during my pro bono work, however, who knows what the future may bring,” she said.

“I must just say that if I ever do consider it in the future, I hope that the culture will have improved.

“I would just hope that all levels of government become far more inclusive, so that anyone would feel comfortable to run and represent their community. That’s what it’s all about and it should be a safe and inclusive space for everyone.”