CHANGING YOUR VOTE works.
In May 2019 Dr Helen Haines was elected as Indi’s second independent Federal Member of Parliament.
First in 2013, the Indi community changed the way they voted and then in 2016 and 2019 they sent a clear message they wanted more. Specifically, they wanted more independent representation, better governance and further action on the issues they indicated were important to them.
Initially it had been a grand experiment; where a rural community had moved away from the traditional image of being seen as a “safe” seat, or “rusted-on” conservatives.
As we prepare for the 2022 election, there is strong evidence this collective decision has delivered beyond the expectations of even the most sceptical.
Building on a solid foundation of community engagement and participation, Dr Haines has delivered great outcomes; more action on integrity, more action to address climate change, more action on mobile phone towers, more action on freight infrastructure.
The Indi MP has also taken on a whole new agenda to improve rural and regional health, deliver age care services and importantly, advocacy for and delivery of recovery action following the disastrous 2020 bush fires.
I outline these details, not only because I am incredibly proud of what has been, and is happening in Indi. I send it as a beacon of hope to at least 23 electorates across Australia where community independents are running for the House of Representatives.
From Toowoomba in South East Queensland to the NSW electorates of Page and Cowper and the regional centres of Goulburn, Bathurst, Orange; the Victorian regions centred on Shepparton, Echuca, Mildura, Horsham, Warrnambool, Gippsland and the Dandenong Ranges; the bayside and beachside suburbs in Melbourne and Sydney; Curtin in Perth, Boothby in Adelaide and the rural electorate of Grey which covers more than half of South Australia.
At this election, the lucky citizens in these communities now have an option for a better choice; better representation, better governance and better advocacy on the issues that are important to them.
Watching from the sidelines I am filled with great hope as I see communities organising, candidates courageously stepping up, campaigns taking their first tentative steps and then giant strides into fundraising, door knocking’ discovering the “coreflute” and the ins and outs of the AEC rules and preference flows.
Across the country thousands of people are engaging in politics for the first time, and often surprise even themselves as they discover a new purpose, make new friends, learn about their neighbourhoods and discover the power of community. I can happily refute the rumour there is a master mind at work here, a controlling hand managing the process or targeting individuals or seats. It’s just not true.
What is true, is there is a deep desire among many individuals for something better than what they are currently being served. They are prepared to change the way they vote.
They believe in the democratic process and are willing to participate. They are supported by numerous community leaders, volunteering their skills and talents, prepared to step up, to do the jobs, take on the roles and responsibilities and be part of this grand experiment.
They tell me they are inspired by the successes of strong independents within Parliament: Andrew Wilkie with his initiatives to reform gambling; Zali Steggall in Warringah and her ground breaking work on climate action; Rebekha Sharkie’s advocacy on age care; Helen Haines and her persistence in establishing an integrity commission and code of conduct for politicians. What’s not to admire in the work of these amazing Australians?
This journey of changing your vote is not for the faint hearted. Throughout the communities selecting candidates, for the candidates themselves, and for those thousands of people volunteering their time and resources to run campaigns there are the joys of truly being of service and taking the opportunity to do your duty by your community.
But it’s also a tough road. Sadly some opposing candidates, including those with a sense of entitlement to their safe seats, are not taking kindly to the competition. Name calling, sledging, distorting the truth and actual fibs are par for the course.
The vitriol and abuse does surprise, shock even, and the words land with a thud – “fake independent”, “groupies”, “Labor Green” – that’s not us! We once were like them. And we don’t understand why they don’t see we are not the enemy – all we want is something better.
After this election, my hope is many more communities get to experience what has been happening in Indi, Clark, Warringah, and Mayo. Better representation, better governance and more action on the issues that are important to us.
It can be done.
Change your vote. Vote for a local, community independent!
Cathy McGowan AO former Independent MP for Indi