Flan Cleary

Flan Cleary

Flan Cleary is 75, a retired civil engineer born in Co Clare in Ireland who migrated to Australia with his family at 17. He does not like being photographed.
Flan Cleary

Messages to friends in Ireland

I HAVE NEVER been involved in the political process, except for voting, but I felt I had to do something to help get rid of the Morrison government.  I was fed up with the lack of action on climate, the lies, the waste of money, the treatment of women and refugees, the lack of integrity, and most of all the wasted opportunities for the country.  

I was impressed with the contact I had with the ‘Voices of Mackellar’, so I decided to join Sophie Scamps’ campaign.

I mentioned this to a couple of friends in Ireland with an interest in politics, and they asked me to send them regular updates. The notes below are from the messages I sent them.

This is the story of my small part in the campaign. I met so many interesting people amongst the volunteers and I enjoyed all my conversations with them. I particularly thank three people:

  • Leonie Scarlett, a co-founder of Voices of Mackellar, who organised most events I attended, always knew the right thing to do or say, worked incredibly hard, and, most importantly, was always nice to everybody.
  • Richard Proctor, organiser of the door knocking team, worked incredibly hard, knew there were always more doors to knock, improved my fitness no end and, most importantly, provided great refreshment at the end of the day.
  • Deirdre, my partner, who had a hip replacement operation just as I joined the campaign, but insisted that, instead of ministering to her, the most important thing I could do was help the campaign and attend every event I could.

And thanks to Caroline, Aine, Ray, Joan, Eoin and Daniel in Ireland for their interest, comments and keeping me writing.  They are as pleased as me that Sophie won.

Riding the #MakellarVotes wave

05 April 2022 – Voices of Mackellar

In Australia we have all these safe seats that vote for the Liberal (Conservative) with men elected to them who act like men and have no interest in the things voters want like climate action and integrity. Over the last few years coalitions of women have got together, run workshops with locals to find out what matters to them and stand strong women candidates in elections. So far, they’ve won three very conservative seats, including defeating ex PM Tony Abbott in Warringah, the seat next to me, in 2019.

We live in Mackellar, one of the safest liberal seats in the country.  A couple of years ago five local women formed ‘Voices of Mackellar’ and held gatherings to listen to what matters to locals.  I went to one at the Newport community garden, and gardening people I thought would be very conservative had the same concerns as me about lack of action on climate change, corruption and our treatment of refugees. It was very enlightening.

Anyway, one member of Voices of Mackellar is standing as an independent candidate in the election.  Sophie Scamps (Dr Sophie for the campaign) is a 50 year old GP who lives and works locally, has three kids, was chosen to represent Australia in the Olympics as a runner, won a gold medal in the junior world athletics championship, and started a non-profit to reduce local emissions and waste.  A low achiever, but you have to work with what’s available.

Some well-to-do people are very concerned about climate, so the group got seed funding and lots of local support. From the look of it they have built a serious organisation with the main office in Collaroy.

I joined in March and there were already about 200 volunteers in my local area. We can volunteer for door knocking, street listening, banner waving, just being visible in our t-shirts, and erecting signs. When I picked up my Dr Sophie t-shirt, a woman in the office told me they had lots of old white guys joining (I did not take offence) who were great at getting leaflets delivered. There are nearly a thousand volunteers already. 

08 April 2022 – Banner waving

I started slow. Twenty of us assembled at Newport in our t-shirts with our signs and Leonie Scarlett briefed us to walk along the main road from Newport at morning peak hour waving to motorists.

We got some waves and horns blowing and thumbs up – one or two were only of one finger but a wave is a wave is a wave.  It’s all about getting the name out. 

09 April 2022 – A little background

Last election there were six candidates and the Liberal, Jason Falinski got 53 percent of first votes.  The next best was Labor on 17 percent.  After preferences were distributed Jason got 63 percent and Labor 37 percent.  So, it will be a big job to roll him.

On the Helper’s app I put myself down for flag waving and door knocking.  I avoided the physical stuff like putting up posters. 

10 April 2022 – A long day doorknocking

I put myself down for door knocking on the app – it makes it so easy to volunteer for events, keep in contact and find out what is going on, and it has our manual on what to do and how to behave – and looked forward to the big day.  I fancy myself at the talking part, but I got nervous on the day as I remembered I hadn’t read any of her policies in detail.  But I had the brochures.  

They tried for 100 people and got 94. We’re organised in four teams depending on the area we live in, and Richard, the person responsible for door knocking, sent me out with an experienced knocker.  We had two hours and he gave us one side of a long street.  We had to knock, introduce ourselves, ask if they were aware of Sophie, what were their main issues and concerns, what was their level of interest or support, did they want to get more info, go to one of Sophie’s events or have a poster put up, and any questions.  If they were not there we left a leaflet.  Then we recorded the answers in a special app.  

The trainer tended to follow the format of the questions but I went more free form when I was on my own. 

The first half of the street was older places, and ‘over 55’ flats.  Some people were interested, some didn’t answer the door, there were three COVID houses where people peered round the door and told us to go away.  A few were rusted on Liberal voters and did not want to talk.   

One lady in her sixties in a small flat had been there a year and had an amazing garden in pots, a little orchard and lots of herbs and flowers.  She voted Green, of course, adamantly so, but we might get her second preference.  And I got a cutting.

A little old lady of about 90 looked like a retired nun and had a hen that looked like it had no feet running around the front garden.  She’d not heard of Sophie, and as for this climate stuff, a load of rubbish.  There is nothing any individual can do that will change things.  Definitely not.  What she wanted to talk about was euthanasia.  Her doctor had asked her if she wanted to be resuscitated if anything happened to her.  OF COURSE she did.  God put her on this earth and only God could take her away.  These people going to Switzerland, they were self murderers, disgraceful.  (My brother suggested afterwards I should have told her I’d been sent by God to tell her to vote for Sophie. Next time.)

I felt very satisfied when I convinced a tradie to take a “vote Sophie” sticker for his car.  I spent some time discussing the vacuum cleaner he was repairing, so I earned that.  Small triumphs.  

The last house was the most enjoyable.  A big flash house, the owner was out in front washing his drive and listening to a “conversations” podcast.  We got on well.  Intelligent, interested in Sophie’s policies, and thought it was great that we were putting our time into canvassing.  I asked where he was from (I suspected) and he said he was from County Kerry, went to London at 18, married an Australian and has been here since and not looked back.  He told me he used to have to go out with his father delivering brochures for Fianna Fail in Kerry.  I asked if his name was Healy Rae (think Katter but worse) and he crossed his fingers and put a hex on me.  But I think he’s now a Sophie voter.

Together we volunteers knocked on 2,400 houses and there was good recognition that Sophie was standing.  All the others went to the pub for a debrief and I went off to nursing duties.


Feature Image: Banner-wave briefing, Flan Cleary on the far left with the umbrella. Photo by Leonie Scarlett.


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