Mid-week in October last year I sat in the Ooh café in North Fremantle taking a break from legal work to enjoy a coffee while contemplating the dreaming papers I’d amassed in a manila folder. In walked Sarah Silbert, a friend. Sarah and I knew each other through our children and legal backgrounds.
She asked what I was doing. I half-jokingly said, “I am trying to create Australian political history”. There was a mismatch between Celia Hammond, the Liberal MP for Curtin, and the socially progressive and economically responsible profile of our electorate similar to Warringah, where Zali Steggall had knocked off Tony Abbott, and Wentworth, where Dr Kerryn Phelps had knocked off David Sharma. Think climate and compassion and the opportunity to find and support an independent candidate representative of the electorate to overcome our almost 14 percent margin.
Sarah said she’d be in touch.
Sarah soon got in touch. Her combination of heart, humanity and hair were on board. Her emotional intelligence and people skills shining through to the end.
What was in my manila folder?
In early October 2021, my mind raced after reading an article about the success of Zali Steggall in winning Warringah from Tony Abbott and, importantly, the opportunity for that success to be replicated in a similar profile electorate. By this stage, Kylea Tink had stepped up in North Sydney backed by the community group, North Sydney Independent. Soon to follow were Allegra Spender (Wentworth), Monique Ryan (Kooyong), Zoe Daniel (Goldstein) and Sophie Scamps (Mackellar).
I couldn’t sleep that night knowing the Curtin electorate had such a high “yes” vote in the same sex marriage plebiscite and that its socially progressive profile meant we too had an opportunity to find an appropriate economically responsible candidate backed by community.
My manila folder contained the 2019 results for Curtin, a map of the Curtin electorate after the redistribution showing it was held on a 13.9 percent margin, and articles on the rise of community-backed independents and by psephologist, Antony Green on the analytics of winning a safe seat. We needed to drag Ms Hammond below a primary vote of 45 percent, our candidate needed to run second, ideally at 25 percent, and receive preferences from Labor and the Greens.
Kitchen Table Conversations and an approach to Maz
By mid-October last year we were way behind our sister electorates in Wentworth, Kooyong, Goldstein, North Sydney and Mackellar. who were already on the ground and running hard. We had no time to waste
Our kitchen table conversations began on a Saturday morning in Mosman Park. Sarah Silbert, Michael Silbert, my sister Katrina Burton and me. Did we feel the same way? A mismatch between our MP (and the Liberal Party) and our values? Taken for granted? Sense an opportunity? Did people in our networks feel the same way? Were we willing to act? Did we want a different dialogue for our kids? Were we appalled at the treatment of refugees?
Yes, to all the above.
Christmas was looming. It wasn’t easy for people with zero political experience to launch Curtin Independent then find an independent to represent socially progressive and economically responsible policies.
I had approached Anthony Maslin (Maz), who I knew through work, particularly through providing advice to Maz’s Wide Open Agriculture venture. Maz and his wife Rin had become the face of the MH17 airline tragedy in 2014 with the loss of their three children and Maz’s father-in-law. Since their world ended, Maz and Rin focused on positive and meaningful community engagement.
If Curtin Independent was to blossom, Maz surely had a part to play.
Stumbling into the North Sydney network
Michael Ottaviano was a former next door neighbour in Mosman Park who had developed a deep green economy network. I called him for advice, and lo and behold his wife Mandy was working full-time on economic policy in the Kylea Tink campaign.
Through Mandy we connected with Kirstin Lock and Denise Shrivell, two founders of North Sydney Independent, who helped supercharge our race to launch Curtin Independent. Amongst the advice – find “doers” and beware, because everyone will say they can “do policy”.
Working through “community imperfection” and Maz launching Curtin Independent
Maz introduced us to Ronnie Duncan, a brand and corporate strategist with British election experience. Ronnie assured Sarah Silbert and I that although branding and marketing was important for any launch of Curtin Independent, lack of perfection for a community group was OK.
Maz launched Curtin Independent on Friday, 10 December in the influential local The Post newspaper. Michael Silbert built our website and we drafted our first press release at warp speed.
Maz’s profile gave us splash coverage, including radio interviews with Maz, as we searched for Curtin’s answer to Zali and Allegra.
You can read Part two: Finding Kate and the campaign team here
No Fibs coverage of Curtin
- Saturday Paper announcement interview with Kate Chaney by Margo Kingston
- “Beholden only to my electorate”, Kate Chaney’s pledge to launch her quest for #CurtinVotes
- Twitter’s launch report: “We are starting a really exciting journey together.”
- PODCAST: Kate Chaney says win or lose we’ve changed #CurtinVotes
- Inside the #CurtinVotes aqua bubble: Gareth William’s story