Where Indi has shown the way for regional Australia, Wentworth and Warringah have shown the way for the cities.
It is a growing movement and the DNA is community. Each community that seeks to become part of this movement takes those values and principles they have in common and makes the outcome their own. There’s no formal structure or party and there’s no one way of doing community politics.
Getting Elected: The First National Convention for Community-minded Independents is central to this movement: an online forum from Friday, February 26 to Sunday, February 28. The convention brings together the nation’s leading community independents including the member for Indi, Dr Helen Haines, the former member for Wentworth Dr Kerryn Phelps, Warringah MP Zali Steggall, Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie and the member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie.
I am often asked why so many women are standing and finding success as independents? I suspect it is because so many of us have worked in and understand the fundamental importance of community, and specifically OUR communities.
Our years on school committees, community volunteering and fundraising for services such as child and aged care have seen many of us at the front line of service delivery. We have the knowledge and experience of real-time (small p) politics – that means getting things done, creating teams, managing egos, sorting out disputes and building community.
We have seen the failure of government policy and what happens when integrity is lacking. We know ‘pork barrelling’ has direct, immediate and often terrible consequences for individuals, families and community.
As daughters, sisters, aunts, parents, grandparents and neighbours, women are the ones who are called in to fill the gap. We now want something better and we see a way forward, outside the restrictions of the major parties.
If ever there was a time for community-minded independents, it is now.
It is time to think creatively about the future of our nation – about the values and attributes needed for a thriving, smart, multicultural and modern nation, free of its colonial past.
We should be thinking about what it might mean to be a republic and consider the best form of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It is time for action on climate. It’s time to regroup as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and determine the role of an engaged, strong, motivated community in reinventing an Australia that strives for diversity, equality, fairness and opportunity for all.
In taking political action, my community got a better outcome, greater engagement and more effective political representation. In Indi, now, there is an energy and sense of power that comes from knowing that “we did this”.
Across the country, other communities are sharing similar thoughts, thinking (and increasingly saying) “we want some of this” – effective community engagement in participatory democracy and a better way of doing politics.
It is no longer acceptable that unprofessional or even corrupt behaviour is dismissed without consequence. Our communities have had enough.
They want an electorate where their MP is backed by the community, engages with the community, actually represents the community and delivers effective representation.
The rise of community independence is having a tangible impact across the country. This groundswell is optimistic, engaging, and fun, but at the same time, there is a sense of urgency and an understanding that the time to act is now.
It is past the time of sitting back, hoping that others will do something. It is time to turn up, speak up and step up. The outcomes are worth it. The nation needs it.
Cathy McGowan AO, former MP for Indi, is the author of Cathy Goes to Canberra which tells the story of how community independence can be done; shares strategies and explains how to engage and support others wanting to have a go.