From Canberra to Alice Springs – military precision for Indi MP and ADF volunteer
Posted August 24, 2015
Volunteers in the office of Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO, learn plenty about Parliament and one in particular last week was keener than most to gain knowledge of how the whole system operates.
Wing Commander Robyn Johnstone spent four sitting days in Ms McGowan’s office as part of the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program (ADFPP). Ms McGowan said the ADFPP’s aim is for Defence and parliamentarians to gain a better understanding of the role, responsibilities and obligations of both parties.
Wing Cdr Johnstone observed Question Time, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry meeting about the latest inquiry on Agricultural Innovation, and Ms McGowan deliver several speeches. The experience has given Wing Cdr Johnstone a new perspective about making submissions to Government.
“This has shown me how Bills are progressed to approval, and an insight to the workings and responsibilities of parliamentary committees,” she said. “I leave Cathy’s office with a much better knowledge of the machinery of Government and the way business is managed through Parliament. I also have a greater respect for the role of a parliamentarian and their responsibility to ensure the voice of their constituents is heard in Parliament.”
The frenetic pace of the office and huge task representing a rural electorate were lessons not lost on the ADF member.
“As an Independent, Cathy needs to be across all issues brought to Parliament and then identify the opportunities and threats for her electorate,” Wing Cdr Johnstone said. “My observation is that she does this very well, but the workload and commitment is unrelenting.”
As part of the reciprocal part of the program, from August 24 to 28, Ms McGowan joins parliamentary colleague Ann Sudmalis at the Army Aboriginal Assistance Program near Alice Springs. The MPs will spend time welding, cooking in the mess, and doing construction work. But it’s not all hard slog with opportunities to visit artists and tour community health facilities.
Ms McGowan is no stranger to Alice Springs, having trekked the Larapinta Trail and camped in the area.
“It will be a wonderful learning experience, seeing the challenges the defence force personnel and the local indigenous communities face,” Ms McGowan said.
“I got a sense of how life is in the ADF when I visited Bandiana recently, and I know it is hard work. Being a practical person, I like to help and this is another way for me to give back.”