Local, Independant and Effective

Campaign Launch Speech at The Cube, Wodonga 2013

Posted August 04, 2013


Cathy's 2013 election campaign launch speech as an independent candidate for the federal seat of Indi

The Cube, Wodonga - 11am Sunday 4 August 2013


1. Opening

Howard Jones had it half right when he wrote in the Border Mail on May 24 that I would make a great member of parliament but won’t be given the opportunity.

He’s only half right because he assumed that people, electorates, circumstances remain the same – that things remain the same.  In the next 20 minutes I want to talk about change – personal change, community change and a once in a life time opportunity for an electorate to change.


2. Story of young people calling on us for engagement – to act

For me, this call to change was personal:  A specific request from loved nieces and nephews to become involved in this federal election. A request to engage with them on important issues: Talking to them and their friends, I felt their frustration of not being listened to, of not being taken seriously, of having no pathways to engage or influence.

They helped me know the cost not only on them, but on us, as a community if we ignore their voices- the cost of generational disengagement, disillusionment and detachment and also the benefits of engagement that young people bring to a community, their energy, knowledge, skills, networks.

But I also found that their thoughts were echoed across all ages in the Indi community.

And the success of this campaign to date bears witness to the involvement, the dedication and skills of not only Indi’s young people but many others who came on board as we got going.


3.  Our response

Many of you will know the story of what happened next: the setting up of Voice for Indi as a grass roots community organization. Our commitment to create forums within the electorate to enable political conversations to take place, the rolling out of the kitchen table conversations in February, March and April of this year and many of you were at the fantastic occasion of the launch by award-winning author and Indi resident Kate Andrews in Wangaratta on May 19th  of the Voice for Indi report.

That report and the kitchen table conversation process told us about the

Importance of community and how belonging to community is the foundation, the building block to what makes our lives worthwhile.

We were told about the important issues impacting on people’s lives - broadband, mobile phone coverage, transport, health, education, environment and food.

And we were told what people thought about political representation and what they thought was the role of representatives.  If you want the details, copies are at the rear.


4. What we learnt through this process

When given the opportunity to talk about important political issues, people were surprised to meet others who enjoyed talking about politics, sharing stories of how things could be different. We learnt:

  • that people in Indi are interested in politics
  • that people do care about how their taxes dollars are spent
  • that the sense of disillusionment and dissatisfaction wasn’t only among young people, it was wide spread throughout the electorate
  • that there was a fear of talking about politics, of being marginalized; a worry about what it might mean for jobs, status, contracts if you were labelled as Green, Labor, National Party, Liberal.
  • we also heard how political decisions have a direct impact on people’s lives.

And I also heard something else -

That people didn’t agree with the tag line that Indi was a ‘conservative’ seat (whatever that meant); that some people felt insulted when told that Indi was rusted on conservative, that it was safe, that it was boring, old fashioned, that it couldn’t change.

For the people who were part of the kitchen table conversations, their image of themselves was clearly different to the stereotype of ‘safe rusted on conservative’. When the people of Indi spoke to each other - looked at each other - they saw a people who belong to a local or regional community that:

  • is progressive, innovative, responsive
  • cares for others, for the environment
  • that makes things, that makes things happen
  • makes people happy through their tourism, hospitality, festivals
  • is a place where other people want to come and live
  • that wants a strategic approach to regional development.

And the dividend for Indi would be long-term sustainable growth, creation of jobs and protection of the environment. 


5.  The Indi community

Most of us know our own patch – but since the Indi electorate boundary change in 2010, Indi now includes Marysville, Kinglake, Flowerdale, in fact all of Murrindindi shire. Not Yarrawonga, not Violet Town or Euroa. Did you know that:

  • 50-55% of water in the Murray Darling basin is in Indi
  • Our electorate is nearly a quarter the size of Victoria and has a voting population of about 92,000 people.
  • Indi covers 28,000 sq km
  • Current MP has held the seat  for 12 years


6. Cathy

So that is a bit about the history and the process.  I’d like to speak for a few minutes about why I am standing as an independent candidate.

Proudly I am a daughter of the Indi community.  I was born here, went to school in Beechworth and I live on a small farm in the Indigo valley. As one of my older farming neighbours said to me recently, “Cathy you are a community grown leader. We have watched  you grow up, take on roles, gained skills  and occasionally we have helped you along the way.” I know that I belong to North East Victoria and I want to grow old here.

To quote from my mother, I believe that I have been able to “bloom where I have been planted”.

And along the way I have gained skills that will be vital as the Member for Indi.

  • I have a strong sense of fairness and justice – through my work with Australian Women in Agriculture we have had many successes addressing rural inequalities
  • I have a good understanding of government and how it works beginning with my time as a research assistant in the office of Mr Ewen Cameron.
  • I have been also been involved in International trade meetings, agricultural conferences and negotiations.
  • I am also a businesswoman with a strong commitment to regional economic development. 
  • I am a director of our regional credit union WAW and am the program coordinator for the annual professional development conference “Connecting Rural Business Women”.

But I have something else to offer – my point of difference is I am a community-based consultant, so I work with you at the grassroots level, and turn what communities tell me into action and get results – here, in Melbourne, Canberra, PNG. I know how to do this – it has been my bread and butter in my professional working life for years. My networks are extensive across agriculture, business, community, education, local government, health and I bring courage, enthusiasm, persistence and motivation to everything I do.  I want to be the member for Indi.


7.  What do I stand for?

As I have been going around the electorate people ask me, “What do you stand for?”

I stand for three things:

  1. A vision for the future
  2. A commitment to listen to the community
  3. Working with the Government of the day for what is best for Indi.

And this means:

  • Better representation
  • Better connectivity – transport, broadband, mobile phone
  • Better models of service delivery that meet the needs of our rural and regional  communities
  • Innovation and new jobs
  • Celebrating our food, wine, natural environment and arts
  • Political processes that engage and challenge, and calls forth our best selves.


8. Policies

So what does this mean in practice? Since starting this journey I have spoken with hundreds of people and it turns out we want the same things. We want to be healthier, better educated, connected to the world around us, we want jobs and we want to enhance the way of life that makes our region a pleasure to live in.

Today I outline two major policies that will underpin long term sustainable regional development for Indi – telecommunications and health. Other policies on transport, education, aged care and agriculture and food, will be released between now and the election. 


Telecommunications - Mobile phone blackspots

One of the characteristics of the people of Indi is our persistence. Let me tell you the story of how the people of Stanley wouldn’t take no for an answer and came together and lobbied hard to get mobile phone coverage in their area after they were impacted by the 2009 bushfires. This community leadership can be seen right across the electorate. I am proud to tell people about Stanley and have taken their model to other communities.  

Mobile phone black spots are common in our electorate. In tourism areas networks get overloaded in peak times, service is intermittent, and in many parts of Indi carriers such as Vodafone and Optus have limited coverage. Blackspots create chaos for residents and emergency services. This is simply not good enough.

This is a priority area for me and as the Member for Indi, I will:

  • ensure all people have mobile phone coverage
  • advocate for the best communications network in the world, in Indi
  • support a dedicated fund that will co-invest in mobile carrier services for blackspots.


Telecommunications - Broadband

Broadband will revolutionize the way everyone goes about their business and this is critically important in regional areas. Access to internet and telephone is one issue where we need to do a lot better. I believe that broadband infrastructure is at least as important in the 21st century as trains or roads were in the 19th and 20th centuries. We cannot leave parts of Indi back in the 19th century.

Almost 40% of households in Indi have no access to broadband. Around 12% have no fixed connection at all. Across the region I hear from businesses who say they cannot remain competitive without moving more of their business online.

Every day that our communications infrastructure fails to perform is a day that Indi is being left behind.

Across the region I hear from businesses who say they cannot remain competitive without moving more of their business online, and without fast reliable broadband to support this transition how can they hope to compete, not to mention family’s staying in touch with loved ones and the growing importance of web link-ins for specialist medical consultations.

I will:

  • Support the current fibre-to-the-home NBN plan. Fibre optic cable augmented by wireless and satellite technology will bring a world standard communication infrastructure to Indi.
  • Hold the Government to account on the NBN delivery timetable and system speeds. Residents and businesses should have certainty about when they receive these services and the quality of the service.
  • Lobby for communities and businesses not receiving fibre optic coverage.
  • Support communities that will not be serviced by fibre optic cable to present a financial case for their inclusion in that system.



We know that health is a huge issue for our area with a fragmented and incomplete approach, and in our region people miss out. For example, there are no specific strategies for dealing with rural mental health in the government’s current plan. Our border community has just had a huge win in securing a Headspace centre, thanks to the work of so many people. Yet adults, as well as people who live outside our larger towns, also need these services but cannot reach them.

If elected, I would put rural mental health on the national agenda. Next year the National Mental Health Plan will be redeveloped and I want to make sure rural communities have a seat at the table.

  • I will also lobby for increased pilots of telehealth technologies that tackle mental illness, such as mobile phone counselling and online appointments with specialists. 
  • In the Voice for Indi report so many people talk about long waiting lists for hospitals; problems affording trips to the GP and getting appointments; and concerns about mental health and support for ageing.

As Member for Indi, I will:

  • Lobby for funding for capital works through the Health and Hospitals Fund. Our region desperately more funding for hospitals.
  • Work with local and state organisations to create a regional mental health plan. A co-ordinated approach is needed to reach those who currently miss out.
  • Support the development of regional telehealth initiatives. Telehealth offers huge potential for Indi, encompassing preventative and curative health delivery, like the stroke therapy pilot at Wangaratta hospital.
  • Review the funding formula for aged care. Many regional aged care providers are being disadvantaged by the current funding system. Indi communities need local providers, understanding local needs.


9. Policies to come

In the weeks ahead, between now and the election, I will release policies on transport, education, aged care and agriculture and food. These will cover:


  • I will call on Australian Rail Track Corporation  to commit to completing the Wodonga-Melbourne Railway track before the end of the year.
  • I will put the Sydney-Melbourne High Speed Rail back on the agenda.


  • I will support the Better Schools initiative and do all I can to have school funding and standards raised across Indi.
  • I will push for a national concession card for all students, so that students studying can still access transport and other concessions.
  • I will fight to give rural kids fairer access to youth allowance and study support options. We should look at having income contingent loans (HECS) for living expenses, to take the burden off the relocation and living costs of studying away from home.

Food and Agriculture

  • Food production and manufacturing is vital to our region. It creates jobs, provides exports and keeps our agricultural communities viable. In my role on the National Farmers Federation 2050 Committee, I have advocated for agricultural research, development and commercialisation. As the Member for Indi I will continue to do this by supporting our universities, and research and training networks to connect with businesses and farmers.


10. My allegiance

As an independent candidate I will not be bound by party rules. I can respond to the community in a way that best serves the community interest. This means that my allegiance is to the people who elect me, to the people of Indi.

I need your help to get Canberra to take notice of us. There are tables in the foyer where you can put your names down to help.


11. In conclusion

The people of Indi want change. The only thing that is 'safe' about the seat of Indi is our vote.

We share a vision of a region where we have the same opportunities as metropolitan Australians; a region where our sons and daughters have all the same opportunities as their Sydney or Melbourne cousins.

I believe we have the capacity with this grass roots community movement to tap into the skills across the generations to build a strong new Indi community.

I have engaged with young people, parents with young children, business people, professional people, empty nesters, our retirees and our seniors – to receive their wisdom and I have responded - that’s why I am standing for the seat of Indi and asking you for your vote.

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