Sheilah Hogan

Sheilah Hogan

President, Voices of Mackellar
Sheilah Hogan

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Sheilah Hogan

In February at a local RSL club on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Voices of Mackellar hosted what we hope will be the first of a series of Q & A’s to engage more residents to participate in their democracy. The guest of the inaugural event was Federal MP Dr. Sophie Scamps with the focus on learning about her first 200 days in office, and was moderated by Wendy Hamer. 

It should be noted at the outset that Voices of Mackellar is and has always been a non-partisan organisation. Like a few others, but unlike most ‘Voices of’ groups, Voices of Mackellar is not and has never been aligned to any political party, individual election candidate or representative. This grassroots organisation was established with the aim to encourage the highest standard of community consultation and political representation for the residents of the Mackellar electorate. 

As such, the purpose of the Q & A series is to create ongoing opportunities for the community to be heard and included in our democracy, and for those representing the electorate to be held accountable to actions and concerns.  The series was inspired by one of the notable results from our Mackellar Matters 2022 Report released last June which found an overwhelming majority of people surveyed did not feel their voices were being heard or listened to.

The Q & A audience included more than 150 attendees, many of whom took the opportunity to ask  questions directly to their new MP.  While this first audience could be described as mostly ‘supportive’, the design of the forum is to encourage more ‘curious’ community members to attend. Irrespective of who they voted for, this is their chance to not only hear first hand what is happening in parliament, but to be heard on issues that concern them. 

But back to the Q & A…

Well known local Wendy Harmer, moderated skilfully, adding her characteristic humour and familiarity, which resulted in disarmingly honest, natural and open responses from her subject. 

Dr Sophie Scamps MP with Wendy Harmer and audience (photo supplied)

Dr. Scamps reflected back on the key phases that brought her to this point – early involvement with Voices of Mackellar and its in-depth community conversations, then switching to Mackellar Rising and its search for an independent, followed by her campaign as that independent, an election win celebrated at the same RSL and those first 200 days as the MP for Mackellar.

Harmer posed questions about how Dr. Scamps has found the job so far (exhausting, stressful, exciting, a privilege, positive, collaborative…) and how she has found working with MPs across a range of political persuasions (there were a few surprisingly positive insights…). 

After detailing the legislative highlights of her first 200 days (most significantly negotiating improvements to the Climate Change Bill and the establishment of the National Anti Corruption Commission) and her ‘6 Pillars of Focus’ (Climate, Integrity, Health, Economy, Social and Cultural) it was time for those all important pre submitted and spontaneous questions from the audience.

Consistent with our own report findings as well as a recent survey conducted by Dr. Scamps herself, many questions had a climate or environment focus. The status of the PEP11 offshore drilling licence, coal and gas mining more generally plus changes to superannuation and the Voice to Parliament referendum were some of the topics raised.  

Dr Sophie Scamps MP with Wendy Harmer and audience (photo supplied)

As is often the case, the time went quickly and many questions were left unanswered. However, a number of Dr. Scamps electorate office staff generously made themselves available to answer more questions after the formal proceedings had ended. It did not go unnoticed that Dr. Scamps herself was one of the last to leave, clearly enjoying engaging with her constituents.

A full recording of the event can be found here.

Voices of Mackellar’s report on Dr. Scamps actions and activities from May-December 2022 can be found here Mackellar Report card 2022.  

To find out more about Voices of Mackellar or to subscribe to their newsletters visit


Feature photo (supplied): Sheilah Hogan, Wendy Harmer and Dr Sophie Scamps at Mackellar Q & A

Listen to this No Fibs podcast in which Margo Kingston talks with Voices of Mackellar President, Sheilah Hogan and co-founder Maree Nutt now Treasurer and Secretary about what Voices of Mackellar did before and during the campaign, and what its mission is now Sophie Scamps is Mackellar’s independent MP.