Andrei Charrett

Andrei Charrett

Andrei Charrett, an engineer, has lived on the northern beaches for 20 years and loves spending time in the ocean surfing and kitesurfing. Andrei is married with two children who voted for the first time at the May 2022 election.
Andrei Charrett

IN DECEMBER 2021 I became a volunteer for Dr Sophie Scamps. 


I became increasingly frustrated about the Government’s total lack of action on climate change and its obvious and escalating integrity issues. So I started following my local MP on social media (I recommend you do the same, regardless of where you stand politically). 

What I learned was that my MP, Jason Falinski, spent half his time bagging out Labor. He spent more time telling what he was against, than what he was for. Sure, he would spruik LNP talking points as a loyal back bencher, but by this stage many of these were nothing but pure spin. For example, “We have reduced emissions by 20%” is only true because of Queensland land clearing changes years ago, nothing to do with the LNP at all and, frankly, just an accounting trick covering up a lack of real change.

I felt a growing urge to do “something”, but what? I found the Mackellar Rising group on social media, which aimed to find an independent candidate. It looked similar in some ways to the “Vote Tony Out” movement in Warringah 2019. I joined their Facebook group, and listened to Margo’s podcast with Sophie Scamps before she became a candidate.

I was away when Sophie launched her campaign but checked out the photos – hundreds of people! 

A few weeks later I turned up at a ‘Democracy walk’ with Sophie at Long Reef headland, got myself a T-shirt and joined the sky blue team – we are NOT Teal!.

During the campaign I heard the expression “with action comes hope”, often shortened to “active hope”. I say it differently:

“The antidote to frustration is action”.

When I volunteered it was a decision to get off the sidelines and play an active role in our democracy. My wife Anne-Marie joined a month later.

Andrei’s first #MackellarVotes democracy walk

Getting out of the comfort zone

In Australia we are often shy about openly expressing our politics. When you’ve never participated in politics in any way before other than voting, it takes courage to put on a campaign shirt in public, to put a sticker on your car, to put a corflute up in your front yard. So it was great to join the campaign early, as the first few months were a gentle introduction for a newcomer. We met up in groups in our t-shirts for coffee, walks and other fairly easy going events. The volunteer leaders did an awesome job to organise events and to keep us engaged, including a few gentle nudges via sms or calls to attend some of the higher profile events. We were added to a campaign app to organise events, fill jobs and communicate.

Here are a few more expressions I heard during the campaign:

“There is no cavalry coming over the hill, you are the cavalry”

and “exercise your courage muscle”, both of which came from Cathy McGowan. The message was clear: Don’t rely on everyone else. Step up. Get out of your comfort zone. 

Every volunteer was encouraged to do what they could to contribute, but not to do anything they were uncomfortable with. The campaign leaders did such a great job in encouraging us to do more that I ended up door-knocking, handing out flyers during morning peak hour at a bus stop and captaining a few shifts at pre-poll and on election day. Leonie, Richard, Guy… you know who you are!

Tuning out the negativity

With the campaign in full swing, it was becoming clear Sophie was a realistic chance to win, and the same was happening in other community independent campaigns around the country. So the fear and smear campaigns from the LNP and media started ramping up. The stuff they were saying, huh? We were told to expect it. Sure, from the LNP, but for the media to publish so many bad faith articles simply repeating LNP smear was a little discouraging at times. It was clear they were either too lazy to try to understand the community independent movement, or deliberately misrepresenting it. 

But here’s the thing. We had more than 1000 volunteers. We were knocking doors, street listening and waving banners at peak hour traffic. Lots of positive conversations, lots of waves and Thumbs Up from cars. Over the last month of the campaign when I was out and about in my t-shirt, I was often approached for a chat, or just given a positive comment. Walking the dog, at the shops, at the beach. 

It was time to ignore the media – they had no idea what was going on. It was time to trust the campaign team and just do your part.

Having fun!

I met volunteers from all over my electorate. Some ex-liberal members and voters, some more left-leaning, some that were from Warringah who’d worked on Zali’s 2019 campaign. Most were like me, never done anything like this before. We all had some common values that brought us to the campaign and we all wanted something better. So it was easy to pair up with someone you never met before to go door-knocking, or meet at a café or park not knowing who would turn up. And it was fun.

Democracy walk with Sophie and Zali supporters

I never thought I would ever go door-knocking, and I was petrified before my first door-knocking session. But you know what? It was surprisingly interesting to hear what people had to say, see how they reacted, and it was fun. We started asking people, “Have you ever been door knocked for a political campaign before?”. The answer was usually no.

Some people actually appreciated the effort to connect. New door-knockers were always paired with someone experienced. We would all meet up after door-knocking for a debrief, an excuse to have a drink, compare experiences and tell funny door knocking anecdotes. The camaraderie in the door knocking team was a highlight of my experience.

Pre-poll was also really fun. The best way to approach it was to treat it a bit like a game, moving people around and reacting to changing conditions to have the best chance to get a positive message in with a HTV card. The real fun of pre-poll is not for print, that would be giving away tactics!

At #MackellarVotes pre-poll

We did it!

On election night we all gathered for the party at DY RSL

Initial results on TV were encouraging, as were scrutineers as they arrived. In hindsight we should have known very early in the night it was in the bag, but we were all pretty nervous.

When Antony Green called it for Sophie, you had to be in the room to experience the outburst of emotion and cheering. 

Dr Sophie Scamps in demand on election night – #MackellarVotes

We did it!

No one can ever take away that feeling we all had at that moment. We were all part of the win – I was part of it! 

Here’s another expression I heard in the campaign:

“History is made by those who show up”.

We showed up. We made history. 

The first independent MP for Mackellar. The first non-Liberal MP for Mackellar. ”Dr Sophie Scamps, MP”. Sounds pretty good.


A word from Margo: No Fibs has history with #MackellarVotes – we covered Alice Thompson’s #IndependentsDay campaign in 2019, where she paved the way for Dr Sophie Scamps, as James Mathieson did for Zali at the 2016 election. And of course there’s Louise Hislop, who became a campaign manager for Zali in 2019, worked in her electorate office, then moved to Mackellar, where she teamed up with an old friend, Leonie Scarlett on Sophie’s campaign team.  Louise wrote her story in a seven part series on No Fibs called #WinningofWarringah and said there was a winning Mackellar vibe in the under-radar seat in a mid-campaign #transitzone podcast. #Transitzone did the first interview with Sophie in October 2021 when, as a member of Mackellar Rising, she was seeking a candidate and did not intend to run. We published Sophie’s launch speech and collated a live Twitter launch report. Her volunteer coordinator Leonie Scarlett wrote an account of her journey, as did volunteers Paul Boland, Julie Donald, Michael Osbourne, Joy Nason, Jan Proudfoot, Beth Jessup. Flan Cleary collated his emails to Irish friend on his volunteer adventure, Marita Macrae, Kerry Smith and Margaret Woods teamed up for a joint contribution and Joanna ML’s series is a very valuable, information packed, addition as is Helen Wheeler’s description of her frenetic volunteer role as an area leader. Thank you Andrei, and more Mackellar volunteer stories are welcome!