I have always been political. I grew up in a small country town and my parents were of a conservative bent, but I was attending street marches in 1970s Brisbane before I was old enough to vote. After my children were born I door knocked and handed out how to vote cards for Labor.
The 1980s “greed is good” mantra precipitated a political lurch to the right across Australia. Labor slowly inched right, the Democrats rose and fell and right-wing minor parties proliferated. There were so few alternatives, and I found myself living in LNP heartland. The views of the LNP did not reflect the views of myself, my family and friends, or indeed most of my acquaintances and colleagues, but there was an enormous electoral margin that seemed insurmountable.
Then in 2013 something amazing happened – Cathy McGowan won the “safe” regional LNP seat of Indi as an Independent. A miracle – how on earth had she done it? I read Cathy Goes to Canberra – Doing Politics Differently and it gave me hope that such a thing was possible again. Maybe not here, but elsewhere.
However, when I saw a tweet from Voices for Groom I was elated that someone thought it was worth having a go locally. I sent a message asking if there was a group behind the handle, and a couple of days later met Suzie Holt and her daughter Lucy at the Parkhouse Cafe to discuss it.
We realised we had met before, and that I’d worked with her husband, anaesthetist Miles Brodie, at two of the three local hospitals. Meredith King, the co-founder of Voices of Groom, was a friend of my neighbour.
There were a few other familiar faces and many unfamiliar ones at the first meeting I took family and friends along to. After this I attended most meetings, developed the Community Engagement Survey, held Kitchen Table Conversations, and analysed the data generated. I read all I could find about Australian Independents and attended online conferences and discussions related to Independent candidates.
When Voices of Groom held a candidates forum to decide who they would endorse, Suzie emerged as the clear winner and I threw my support behind her.
I had analysed the comments of the community, and I knew what their priorities were. Having spent a great deal of time with Suzie as we listened and spoke people across the region, I knew she had the integrity, drive, willingness and ability to serve them by taking their concerns to Canberra and fighting for them. Regardless of her political leanings as a liberal, she was always authentic, articulate, and respectful in debate. And learning from our community, she developed an overarching vision for our region.
#TeamSuzie committed to being our best selves and working for the common good of our community. We came from different walks of life and from across the political spectrum, but we had the same goal; supporting a community-minded political candidate for Groom who would represent their community with intelligence, empathy and integrity.
It was fascinating to participate and watch a group of people from widely different backgrounds become a highly effective team. I have worked in teams all my adult life, but I have never before been part of one more committed to working together and finding solutions to problems.
No one was paid. People donated their time and skills. Some played to their strengths, and others developed skills when the need arose in areas they had never anticipated.
Mostly I used my strengths. As a registered nurse and qualitative researcher, I’m good at listening to people and finding out what they want and need. This is essential in a political campaign if the candidate wants to truly represent their constituents. As a writer and editor, I wrote, edited and designed documents for the campaign. I also had the pleasure of accompanying Suzie when she travelled around the electorate meeting people.
Do I think it was worth it?
Absolutely! For the first time ever in Groom the LNP received less than 50% of the primary vote. They can no longer take us for granted. We gave those with an appetite for change a viable alternative candidate to vote for outside the party system. Where we led others followed – if Suzie posted on social media that she had been somewhere, other candidates appeared in her wake almost like magic in the following days. Communities outside Toowoomba had never seen so many political candidates before! And on top of that, we had fun and made friends with people we would never have met in the normal course of our lives.
We showed that with good will, integrity, and a commitment to the betterment of our community, it is not too far to join hands across the right-left political divide and create change. #TeamSuzie did it.
Would I do it again?
Hell yes, as long as Suzie does!
Just let’s all rest up and catch our breath for a bit first.
Postscript – Look what Suzie Holt and her team did!
National incumbent, Garth Hamilton, won the 2020 by-election TCP 67.17 percent.
No Fibs coverage of #GroomVotes
- #transitzone podcast and transcript of Suzie Holt interview before she stood as a candidate – “Really shake it up and be heard”: Suzie Holt’s drinks-party-first approach to winning #GroomVotes
- Citizen journo Jamie Quinn report – Hope for change in #GroomVotes: Jamie Quinn on the breakthrough democracy forum in Toowoomba
- Jamie Quinn’s campaign launch report – Suzie Holt launches her vision to grow #GroomVotes together
- #transitzone pre-election podcast – Meet Suzie Holt, again, independent candidate for #GroomVotes
- Volunteer Mary Connole-Bevan’s story – Facebook’s Queen for Suzie Holt at #GroomVotes
- Volunteer John Bushell’s story – What a ride! An unforgettable experience and the journey has just begun
- Sandy Hilders story – From bookclub to organising #GroomsVote booth rosters