IN SEPTEMBER 2021, my grandchildren were aged two and five and another term of the Morrison Government seemed likely. I think it was a tweet from the warrior, Wendy Bacon, that said you need to get involved in the political process. I reached out to Voices of Mackellar (VOM), although I had little understanding of the organisation and I hoped it wasn’t a Liberal Party front.
I received a response from Leonie Scarlett, a founding member, and joined a Kitchen Table conference. Shortly after Leonie had me organising data from these conferences. I joined a Town Hall meeting with State Member Rob Stokes and Mayor Michael Regan.
I still wasn’t convinced. The meeting seemed a bit contrived. Maybe I expected too much.
Leonie said she was leaving VOM to join the election campaign as volunteer coordinator for Sophie Scamps. I immediately thought, “That’s for me” and I joined #TeamSophie in December 2021 as a volunteer. I was just a joe blow trying to wheedle my way into making a decent contribution. I had no election campaign experience but I had plenty of energy. I was experienced in organising and managing large scale projects.
At that stage, I did not think we could manage a 13 percent swing in Mackellar. However, I did not know of the extraordinary optimism and positive energy of the women of Mackellar.
I met Sophie and volunteers for the first time at a campaign meeting in a park in Bayview. I was buoyed by her energy. She seemed genuine and normal. She was willing to spend time with every person there. The most noticeable thing, as everyone was trying to get a piece of her, was that she was listening. It was not about her. It was about the team.
In #TeamSophie I was surrounded by like-minded people who oozed political understanding. For the first time in my life I was talking to people who knew detail about politics. Most surprisingly to me, it seemed most volunteers used to vote Liberal. It was difficult to get a word in the conversations as everyone was so opinionated, but the conversations had substance and not abusive. We had a common purpose.
I stood back and watched as everyone chatted and smiled. That was the most noticeable thing. Everyone was happy and positive. Wow.
I began helping by installing Dr Sophie corflutes at voters’ homes. Then we volunteers started meeting at coffee shops and engaging with voters. We had teams all around the big electorate of Mackellar.
We progressed to standing outside shops, shopping centres, parks, anywhere we knew there were going to be voters – from Dee Why to Palm Beach, Mona Vale to Terrey Hills, Belrose to Frenchs Forest to Beacon Hill. Mostly, we were ignored by the voters but we were everywhere and it was impossible not to notice us in our sky blue Dr Sophie t-shirts.
Leonie and Rebecca Clarke, the Volunteer Managers, allowed me to manage one of the volunteer functions. Volunteers were putting their hands up to stand at bus stops at 6.30am to distribute how to vote cards. Volunteers stood in and outside shopping centres for hours and on the beaches – sometimes alone in the rain. The rain was endless but sky blue kept turning up in the rain.
So many other activities occurred in parallel – banner waving along main roads at 6.30am, door knocking voter’s homes, erecting corflutes at homes and on the streets. The campaign team even produced a Dr Sophie newspaper for us to hand out.
Door knocking was a most important part of our strategy
I have lived in safe conservative seats all my life and I have not seen one candidate at my home or anywhere. Our door knockers were fantastic. They had no experience but were convinced it was the way to make a real impact with voters.
When we door knocked homes, 98% of voters were very polite. The very young people of voting age seemed to be disconnected completely from the election. I empathised with them. I said that I could understand that because actually there has been no government. When major problems occurred, like the fires and the vaccines, the PM went missing. I said that it has not always been like that and does not have to continue. Their eyes brightened.
Most women said Sophie had their vote. Some had their children with them at the front door and explained the election process to them while we were there. Wow.
Yes, our volunteers copped a little bit. After all, the electorate had voted Liberal for 73 years. However, our #TeamSophie principles held – we were prepared, polite and positive. Some people confronted us with “Simon says”, “Climate 200” or “hung parliament”. News Corp was having an effect. When we mentioned that Julia Gillard with Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott were extremely effective at passing legislation, they had nothing to say. If we mentioned that we had donated our time and money for democracy’s sake, they gaped and said nothing.
The last few weeks of the campaign were manic. We undertook so many activities and I was all in. I’m very competitive, and the adrenalin was pumping. There was no way we could let this Government sneak back in. We worked from dawn to past dark. We were everywhere in sky blue. In the background Leonie was driving us. Leonie kept finding volunteers to fill shifts at Collaroy Plateau, Narraweena, Belrose and Narrabeen.
By then quite a few men, including tradies and truck drivers, were acknowledging us positively. But it was the huge number of women of Mackellar smiling that showed they believed their time was imminent. So many women in cars tooted and waved to us. Their children waved too, while many teenagers hid their faces. Some female shop owners said they’d like to put up Dr Sophie signs but were worried they would lose clientele.
Things were changing. The old men brigade was losing control. I was still doubtful about the swing required to win but we had three pluses – the Independents were positive and intelligent women who had momentum, Scott Morrison was a liability and Sophie Scamps had the X factor.
At pre-polls volunteers covered all shifts at the three booths from 8am to 8pm. We outnumbered the other parties. We tried to out-manoeuvre Liberal helpers, stretching their resources by dispersing more and trying to talk to voters in a quiet space. Who knows whether these tactics worked or whether voters had already made up their minds? I had no idea.
Voters had to run the gauntlet through all the party spruikers and many wanted to get out of there. At the end of the final day of pre-polling, we were packing up at Warriewood after Sophie had left the booth when Jason Falinski emerged with two of helpers. He was angry. I was happy.
By election day a lot of us were exhausted
We had been doing shifts at shopping centres, bus stops and polling booths, all on the same day. Leonie pressed us for more. Rebecca held zoom meetings at 8.30pm to review our polling activities. No worries. Only one day to go.
On Election Day. Rebecca and others found a new influx of volunteers to help resource the 38 polling booths in the electorate for 10 hours – three shifts. We’d erected Dr Sophie corflutes and a-frames en masse at all the booths.
I was at Pittwater High all day and there was quite a relaxed feeling at the booth. Voters quietly and calmly took “how to vote” pamphlets from Party spruikers. This booth is quite conservative, and I noticed many people took only Liberal Party HTVs. I felt a bit despondent, many people shunned all spruikers and entered the booth with no paperwork.
After 6pm, scrutineers were called into the booth, four Sophie Scamps’ scrutineers and one Liberal. None from the other parties. There were several tables set up and five Australian Electoral Commission workers counting the first preferences of the seven candidates. It was quickly clear only two candidates were in contention – Jason Falinski and Sophie Scamps, and to my surprise the SS pile was almost as high as JFs. Jason won the first preference count by only 35 votes, and the Labor and Greens piles were much higher than the other parties.
At 8.20pm I drove to the team meeting at Dee Why RSL with non idea of the overall result until my brother told me Sophie was looking really good. I ran into the Club and the room was euphoric. Sophie had won.
I could not believe it. It was an incredible feeling, exultation that Sophie had won, relief that Morrison had lost. I was surrounded by happy and positive people who cared about Australia.
The Campaign Team had engineered a wonderful campaign. It was wide ranging and over the top. They just told the volunteers what to do and the volunteers enthusiastically embraced their plan. We just kept turning up to events, to shops and bus stops and on streets and kept knocking on doors in our sky blue.
Just roll out of bed and keep going.
No Fibs #MackellarVotes coverage
- 1. #transitzone interview with Sophie Scamps before she decided to stand.
- 2. Sophie Scamps’ campaign launch speech, December 2021
- 3. Twitter’s report on Sophie Scamps’ launch.
- 4. #transitzone interview with Sophie Scamps’ wing woman, Louise Hislop.
- 5. Women of #MackellarVotes rose: Voices of Mackellar cofounder Leonie Scarlett on the miracle win
- 6. Alice Thompson’s #IndependentsDay campaign in 2019