Mary Connole-Bevan

Mary Connole-Bevan

Mary Connole-Bevan is from a third generation Toowoomba family. She is an avid traveller, reader of many books, movie buff and passionate theatre goer. She is now retired after wearing many hats, is a wife and mother of two young adult children. Two cats, a dog, lashings of tea, coffee with friends and evening glasses of wine complete her life.
Mary Connole-Bevan

I consider myself to be a Liberal voter and an LNP supporter, but our representation in Groom had become lack lustre and apathetic. We had become a ‘taken for granted’ seat.  

For the first time in my life at the 2019 election I didn’t vote for the LNP.Then we had a by-election in 2020 and again I didn’t vote LNP. Garth Hamilton easily won the seat, again for the LNP, but no one ever saw him, let alone got responses to emails or messages.  

So when my friend Suzie Holt invited my husband and myself to democracy drinks in January 2021 to discuss what we valued, needed and wanted our federal member to be, we were in!

A group of us from all walks of life sat around the table and voiced our opinions, and on that day Voices of Groom was born. It was never set up to be a political party and it never became one. Voices of Groom was a movement of people who shared the same vision that ‘We Deserve Better’. It was now time to stop complaining about our federal member and time to start conversations about having our voices heard.  

In late October 2021 two Voices of Groom members, Kirstie Smolenski and Suzie Holt sought to be endorsed to run for the federal election in 2022. They both gave their pitch and took questions from the floor. Suzie had already started the groundwork in the months prior by meeting with people within the business, medical, arts and agricultural sectors across the electorate from Toowoomba, Highfields, Oakey, Pittsworth and smaller towns in between. 

Suzie was the standout and was overwhelmingly endorsed. Suzie came across to all as being about “us”, not as all about “me”. 

Groom Independent, Suzie Holt, takes a selfie with volunteers – Photo: Mike Spence

So now there was finally a sense of excitement in the air at the prospect of finally having a well-contested election. That perhaps, just perhaps, an Independent could either win the seat or make Groom a marginal seat for the first time.  

A magnificent, large and enthusiastic team of volunteers who brought their own skill sets came on board working around the clock. Why? Because we all believed in Suzie’s passion, knowledge, drive, but most importantly, she had integrity. 

We set up Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and a website; organised meetings and planned events: found an office in town and ordered t-shirts. TV and newspaper interviews happened!  Suzie’s grassroots campaign was run on a shoestring budget and she only took donations from local people.  

In February Suzie asked me to help out with Facebook, as the workload was increasing at an exponential rate. I didn’t hesitate to accept. This campaign was happening, and to be a part of it was both humbling and an adrenaline rush. Social media was a huge player in the campaign and it took up a large part of my daily life.  

Meredith King had moved across from Voices of Groom to become Suzie’s campaign manager and what a magnificent job she did. Meredith organized weekly Monday morning meetings where Suzie’s upcoming calendar was set out: from coffee mornings, kitchen table conversations, politics in the pub, meetings with farmers, business leaders, the press, attending Chamber of Commerce meetings, organising the printing of flyers, how to vote cards and corflutes are just a few things that spring to mind.   

Nadia Emblen performed a mammoth job and she did the hard yards on the website, doing research, putting up press releases, and accompanying Suzie on many visits across the electorate. 

Suzie Holt with #GroomVotes volunteers

From the outset Team Suzie had the motto of “When they go low, we go high”. Our team was measured and grounded and we discussed issues and thoughts before doing or posting anything that could be misconstrued as misleading or incorrect. I am so proud of our team for never engaging in political games by commenting on other candidate’s media pages, for never stirring the pot and for not biting when misinformation about Suzie was spread on social media. There was even an incident where some of Mr. Hamilton’s staff members were commenting on Suzie’s Facebook page. 

Just as I am proud of our team, I’ve got to admit I was disappointed by the behaviour of a few candidates and some of their supporters. This was not only during the election but post election, complaining that if it wasn’t for Suzie running they would have won. The seven candidates running all had one thing in common which was to unseat the incumbent Mr. Hamilton. So by sniping from the side lines instead of being unified by the common denominator made no sense whatsoever.  At times it was ugly.

Suzie was never a part of Climate 200 – she neither asked for nor took money and was not a ‘Teal’ candidate. 

However this did not stop deliberate lying being spread by whispers, innuendo and put on social media posts by Kirstie Smolenski (Independent) and Ryan Otto (Australian Federation Party. Informed voters only had to look at the Climate 200 website to see that there were no ‘Teal’ candidates in Queensland. We saw this for what it was. Desperate measures by them to try and garner votes.  

Suzie and Mary handing out How to Vote cards

It is now two weeks since the election and Team Suzie is thrilled beyond belief at the election result. For the first time in the history of Groom, the LNP didn’t receive 60 percent plus of the primary vote. At this election they received only 41 percent of the primary vote. So for me, that’s a win!

So Mr. Hamilton, we hope you can read the tea leaves and know that Groom deserves better. Team Suzie is watching you. And there’s a very good chance that Suzie is waiting in the wings for 2025.

No Fibs coverage of #GroomVotes