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La Trobe Seat Profile

By Michelle Slater @DottedLine3MDR

4 August 2013

Welcome to the beautiful bellwether seat of La Trobe!

Let’s take a tour through an electorate that includes a rainforest-covered mountain dotted by small villages, then sweeps down to rapid urban growth-belts on its southern flat-lands.

Who the hell is Michelle?

I’m passionate about independent media and giving a voice to communities.

I have a special interest in politics and the environment and I’m also a freelance journo. Check out my gear here.

However, in my mind– at the end of the day, rock n roll will save the world!

I host The Dotted Line on community radio 3MDR 97.1fm for independent Aussie musos, with a big emphasis on the rich Melbourne live music scene.

Tune in Wednesday nights at 9-11pm for weekly interviews and live in-studio performances by some of the city’s best undiscovered musos. Or live-stream at www.3mdr.com

For me, the seat of La Trobe is all about the magnificent bush in the Dandenong Ranges.

Olinda Forest - Dandenong Ranges

Olinda Forest – Dandenong Ranges

I’ve lived there on and off for nearly 25 years and have a special connection with the unique community that comes with living on the mountain.

It’s bloody cold in winter,  and in summer the Country Fire Authority is vigilant. But I wouldn’t wanna live down in the city.

The small village of Tecoma sits in along the narrows into the winding hills. The town’s residents are protesting to stop a 24 hour McDonald’s outlet from being built in the area.

When I was a kid, I rode my horse, Damien, all over the district. We explored every little dirt road and bush track. As a result, I reckon there’s not many places I don’t know on that mountain.

I still love riding around the hills on my Arab mare, Magic Buttons.

I’ve also seen some amazing changes over the decades. When I first moved into the electorate, its southern flats were mainly farming lands and Pakenham was a small country town.

Today, bang! It is a major centre with large shopping precincts. Pakenham is now one of Melbourne’s largest growth corridors and with a  large population of city commuters.

I care deeply about La Trobe and my community. As a bellwether seat, the electorate’s voting behaviour will arguably define our nation.

Please join me as we explore how it will all unfold in this election year.

A bit about La Trobe

La Trobe sits on Melbourne’s eastern fringe and is one of the country’s most marginal seats. It will be a key focus in this year’s election.

The ALP’s Laura Smythe just pipped Liberal’s Jason Wood in a photo-finish with a 1.42 per-cent swing, giving the government a crucial seat in the 2010 cliff-hanger.

The seat is split by Mount Dandenong, which defines electoral behaviour by its changing demography.

Local state Liberal MP, Brad Battin, told local community radio 3MDR 97.1fm, that  La Trobe was made up of many aspirational voters.

“It has a lot of families in it, a lot of management people throughout the electorate and a lot of small-business owners.

“They are affected by decisions by both state and federal governments and if state or federal governments make decisions that will affect them in a negative way, then they will make change

“You’ll get areas that are traditionally Labor and traditionally Liberal.”

However, it is interesting to note that the Kallista polling booth returns one of the highest Greens results in the country.

The Liberal’s Bob Charles held the seat from 1990 to his retirement when ex-cop Jason Wood took the reins in 2004.

Wood held on by 50.51 per-cent to Labor’s Rodney Cocks in the 2007 Ruddslide.

Smythe will re-contest her seat this year against Liberal Jason Wood and Michael Schilling for the Greens.

The Palmer United Party, Australian Sex Party and Democratic Labor Party have also preselected candidates for La Trobe this year.

The seat begins in Boronia on the eastern foothill, then ascends up to  Belgrave, Emerald, Cockatoo and Gembrook, following the Puffing Billy tourist steam rail.

As the land flattens out, La Trobe changes dramatically to embrace new housing developments in suburbs like Narre Warren and Berwick.

As the mountain is within an hour’s commute from the metropolis, there is a strong tourist economy  which relies on Sherbrooke Forest, village antique shops and the Yarra Ranges gourmet trail.

The area also boasts a vibrant arts and music culture with open studio events, community festivals and small music venues.