A tip for the new independents: look to the youth
It’s the niblings who have really nailed it – these are my nieces, nephews and non-binary children of my siblings. The joy, the optimism, the hope that something will finally at last be done. For the past decade, during most of their teenage years all they have known is “nah”, it’s not possible, not going to happen, and we don’t believe you.
Watching the votes come in on Saturday night, some observations: Helen Haines, independent for Indi, increased her margin by 8.6 per cent. Zali Steggall in Warringah increased her margin and won in all her booths, Rebekha Sharkie in the Adelaide Hills is at 63 per cent, and Andrew Wilkie in Hobart now has a whopping two-party-preferred winning margin of 70 per cent.
Something is working. And it’s not only in their electorates, voters are paying attention to the work of these independents in the federal parliament, particularly their leadership on gambling, aged care, climate and integrity. They stand out because they have all introduced relevant legislation to the parliament, providing a voice on some of the major issues facing our young people.
My phone was buzzing on Sunday morning with expressions of joy from this demographic. They were the ones who first pressured me into standing for politics and have stayed with me through the journey.They want something better for their country. I agree with them, they do deserve better and I hope the changes promised by Anthony Albanese in his acceptance speech on Saturday night are realised.
My professional background is in community development, particularly in the regions. This involves supporting leaders, building capacity within communities, helping with networking and accessing resources, both money and skills. I have learnt that leadership is key and it needs to be backed by strategy, goodwill and enthusiasm.
There have to be plans for the future, including a realistic strategic approach to managing the complexities of the next steps and addressing key questions. What do we do next? How do we continue to support our leaders? How do we continue to build the capacity of our communities to solve problems, to be inclusive and help newcomers share the feeling of belonging? What do we do when things go wrong, key players get sick or there are major differences in perspectives and values?
In the next few months the community independents will be asking these questions as they undertake their reviews and assess and document what worked and didn’t. Through surveys, focus groups and discussion, they will begin planning the next steps. They will look at where the attacks gained momentum, what could have been done differently and better and where to next, including getting involved in the state elections in Victoria in November and NSW in March next year, or the next round of local elections.
We have learnt in Indi that we must “be the change” we want to see, a change grounded in the community’s understanding that democracy is not a spectator sport. Huge numbers have dived into democracy and been incredibly innovative and creative as they have shaped the most impressive of community campaigns.