MY TIPPING POINT? On a rainy morning towards the end of 2021 I was marking essays from students asked to describe their direct experience of drought, fire or flood. Many of my students, mostly farmers, had experienced all three in rapid succession. I cried, unprepared to read their heartbreaking losses in recent years.
Later that day Barnaby Joyce said it would cost farmers too much to reduce our emissions, which saw Australia refuse to increase our 2030 commitments in Glasgow. Although the world was finally managing to come to a new agreement on climate action, the leader of our National Party was doing his best to hold it back. His Assistant Minister is our local MP.
Despite the Meat and Livestock Association committing to carbon neutrality by 2030, Joyce said last October that the only way to reduce methane by 30% by 2030 would be “to go grab a rifle (and) go out and start shooting your cattle.” His fear-mongering left us isolated, now the only major developed country refusing to do more to reduce our carbon emissions.
I knew he wasn’t speaking for farmers, but for the coal and gas industry. I mean, Farmers for Climate Action got over 6300 signatures to a statement letting Barnaby Joyce know that “farmers want meaningful climate action”.
Federal politics became personal
I called locals who’d suggested I consider politics. When I said to one that I was considering running as an independent there was a pause on the line.
Vicki Gaillard and other members of the Voices4page group had met with Cathy McGowan’s team and learned of the community-led work of Voices for Indi since 2013.
They’d held many kitchen table conversations but were yet to find a candidate they wanted to endorse.
My husband Kieran looked me in the eye and said, “I’m with you 100 percent”. He always is. Just as we felt that we were getting to a point where life would be getting easier, I knew our life was about to change, again.
Up till then politics was something I observed from a distance, often unimpressed and sometimes inspired (thank you Jacinda Ardern). I read a quote at an early age by Lily Tomlin, who said,
“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realised I was somebody.”
I’ve tried to live my life by those words, but I’d been looking forward to taking the summer off…
Not in my name
I arrived in this beautiful corner of NSW as a child with my mother from Cornwall in the UK. We moved to Byron Bay so Mum could surf the Pass and I could finish my schooling at Byron High. Things were rocky at home, and I finished my HSC living in a government-supported youth house. Thank you!
When I began skipping classes and my grades slipped, I was lucky to have mentors who helped build my confidence and convinced me to finish high school. I found a weekend job washing dishes and learned to look after myself. I moved out the day I finished school.
Two universities made me offers to study science; after first semester at Griffith Uni I visited Southern Cross Uni, fell back in love with the place, and moved back to the region.
Halfway through my degree, at 22, I was in Bali at the Sari Club on 12 October 2002 when the bombers struck. I escaped the burning dance floor, but my first love, Marc Gajardo, did not. When I carried young Tom Singer from the fires, a photo was all over the news. He didn’t survive either.
As I stared at the smoking rubble and abandoned shoes a journalist held up a microphone and I asked why anyone would want to do this to us.
Eighty-eight Australians died in the Bali bombing, plus Marc.
So when John Howard said he had “88 reasons to go to war in Iraq”. I wrote a letter to share my thoughts, published in The Australian, titled “Not in my name, Mr Howard”.
My tiny grandmother, whose ambition for me helped me do it, travelled from Cornwall to see me graduate.
After she turned 90 I returned to Cornwall to take care of her, train as a teacher, teach at a college and join the beach lifeguard.
I had a passion for teaching, and came home to become a research student in 2011, achieving first-class honours and an offer of a PhD scholarship to study the social impacts of coal seam gas development.
And I wrote Shock Waves, finding peace after the Bali bomb.
It is time
Today I’m a happily married mother of two little children and live in the beautiful coastal town of Evans Head. I’m a tenured Senior Lecturer in science and regenerative agriculture at my beloved University. I run research projects working with farmers in our region and across Australia.
Farmers know our changing weather patterns are a major threat to the functioning of their farms. Helping farmers and rural communities build resilience in the face of these changes is a major passion, and I’m the founding co-ordinator of our world-first Regenerative Ag courses.
Regenerative and innovative agriculture helps farmers build the resilience of their farms and soils. It offers many tools for locking up carbon, from improved soil management and wetland regeneration to agroforestry and feeding cows red seaweed (no, I’m not kidding). But these practices are no silver bullet. We need a swift and planned transition towards a carbon neutral economy that supports our farmers.
The crisis of decency and truth in our politics needs to be addressed because it is manifesting in very poor outcomes for regional Australia.
In regional Australia, for many people things are not getting any easier or are getting harder. Too many people are living in their cars and too many families cannot find an affordable home to rent or buy.
I have seen our Universities, TAFE and our beloved ABC dismantled bit by bit for lack of funding. I see a health, Disability and Aged Care sector that was strained and fragmented long before omicron. Enough is enough.
I believe our political systems are reaching a critical tipping point, and I feel the fresh air of change blowing through.
I believe it is time.
So I’m standing as the Voices4Page independent candidate for Page.