Cathy McGowan: Member for Indi

The Story

Building a successful Campaign: The Road to Indi

The story for Cathy McGowan’s campaign for the seat of Indi is best told by those who were involved from the beginning.

This release explains the process from its very beginning from the Voice for Indi community movement, through social media and media engagement, fundraising and an overview from the campaign coordinator.  

This is a release from the campaign team of Cathy McGowan and acts as a partner to a press release by the Voice for Indi Committee.

It has been broken up into these four components with contacts at its conclusion.

The electorate of Indi

The electorate of Indi was one of the original 75 divisions contested at the first federal election and has existed continuously since Federation.  It is large, 28 000 square kilometres in size, and is primarily a rural electorate. It encompasses all the major ski resorts in Victoria and is an electorate of rivers, valleys and plains. Major city centres include Wodonga, Wangaratta and Benalla, which service large areas of agricultural land, snowfields, state forest and national parks.

The federal electorate of Indi has voted conservative since 1931.  The only time it has been held by another party was in 1928 when the conservative candidate forgot to nominate.

Indi has been held by the Liberal member, Sophie Mirabella since 2001 when she took over from the retiring Liberal member, Lou Lieberman.  Ms Mirabella’s primary vote peaked in 2004 with 63% of the primary vote and has been in decline ever since with a primary vote of 52.6% in 2010.

The Beginning and Volunteers

The campaign had its genesis in the Voice for Indi movement. The Voice for Indi process (see Voice for Indi press release) strengthened community networks right across the electorate, but also created an environment of political action and engagement.   

Although not everyone who participated in the Voice for Indi kitchen table conversations went on to volunteer for Cathy McGowan, it was a great foundation for Cathy’s campaign.  By election day the campaign had over 600 volunteers.  Many of these people began their involvement through the kitchen table conversations or knew someone who was.  This involvement created an enthusiastic base of support, which snowballed over the campaign.  

Susan Benedyka coordinated much of the volunteer training and organisation throughout the campaign.

“We had absolute trust in our volunteers and worked with a very flat organisational structure,” she said.

“The success of the campaign really came from the creativity, adaptability and drive of our volunteers.  Much of this drive came from seeing their communities commit to political involvement for the first time,” Susan said.

Volunteer training sessions were offered all over the electorate, where people were taught how to doorknock, about manning polling stations and even how to be scrutineers.

“The volunteer training and organisation built upon the values of the Voice for Indi project,” Susan said.

“We worked on a train the trainer principle and volunteers worked together to pass the training onto volunteers in the farthest reaches of the electorate.  In this way we were able to spread excitement, but also capacity, right across the electorate.”

As the campaign spread 4 offices were set up across the electorate.  Each office was donated by supporters and staffed by volunteers.  Offices in Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla and Alexandra allowed for face to face interactions across the large electorate.  

Personal interactions are the most effective way of communicating a political message.

“Teams across the electorate led door-knocking campaigns in their towns.  We had cash mobs in florists and a campaign choir in major town centres.  We also had four very visible campaign vehicles including a motorbike with a trailer and a ‘Blues Brothers’ truck,” Cathy said.

Social Media and Media Engagement

It can sometimes be considered cliche to mention the power of social media. But right from the beginning social media has been essential when engaging with supporters, facilitating donations and coordinating volunteers across the huge electorate of Indi.

The day before the election, Cathy McGowan (@IndigoCathy) had 2130 followers on Twitter (all real) and 2706 likes on Facebook.

Cam Klose (media liaison) helped manage Ms McGowan’s social media accounts.

“We maintained a very active social media presence and it was just fantastic to see so much  engagement in a rural electorate.”

“But what was really important was our ability to convert social media followers to volunteers,” Cam said.

“We were able to raise large crowds to turn up to events, like our cash mob, even at the very last moment.  And the facebook page and twitter feed became places for volunteers to share highlights of the campaign”

The innovative social media strategy included crowdfunding through Chip In, YouTube videos of supporters and Cathy and it was also key to other fundraising efforts. The day before the election Cathy’s campaign had raised upwards of $117 000.

Cathy attributes a large part of her campaign’s success to the energy, enthusiasm and skills that the young volunteers brought.

“What was particularly important for me was the involvement of young people,” she said. “The work of the younger generation was critical to the success of the campaign and especially the vibrant online presence we were able to create.”

Fundraising and Volunteer Coordination

Fundraising and volunteer co-ordinator Nick Haines said he was surprised at the amount of donations coming through.

“I was really surprised to see the response from the community and their support for a political campaign in what has otherwise been a fairly apolitical region,” he said.

Fueled by social media and a number of key supporters on Twitter, Nick said a fair number of donations also came from outside the electorate.

“There was something about Cathy’s campaign that really captured the imagination of people right across Australia and by the end we had donations coming in from the United States, New Zealand and every one of Australia’s capital cities,” Nick said.  

“Our grassroots campaign captured the imagination of people right across Australia, but it was the enthusiasm and dedication of volunteers within the electorate that made the campaign possible. ” Nick said.

All up, the campaign raised over $117,000 from over 1000 donors.

Campaign Coordinator

Campaign co-ordinator Phil Haines said the campaign had come a long way from its origins in August, 2012.

“I don’t think many of us could have ever dreamed we would have been in this position three months ago,” he said.

“By running such a successful campaign we’ve been able to show other safe seats what’s possible.  We set out to liven up the political scene in Indi, and win or lose, we’ve certainly done that.”

 

Contacts:

Social Media and Media Engagement:

Contact: Cambell Klose 0459 323 562

Campaign Coordinator:

Contact: Phil Haines 0417 540 99