Volunteers get insight into politicians, parliament and the passion driving Member for Indi
Posted July 01, 2014
A Rubicon Valley father and daughter have discovered first-hand how diverse and interesting the goings-on in Canberra are in the hub of Australian democracy.
Ken and Eden Deacon spent a sitting week volunteering in the office of Independent Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO, and got to see how things operate inside the hustle and bustle of Parliament House during the last sitting week in June.
Reflecting on the experience, Ken said the week had been fantastic and a real eye-opener for him and his daughter.
“We learnt more knowledge about the politicians and more about the issues being discussed within the parliament house,” he said. “We also worked with others within Parliament House and saw what their job consists of and how they maintain all of their work.”
Ken said seeing how behind-the-scenes Cathy's focus was always on discussing issues to help the electorate become a better area had been illuminating.
“Every time she spoke to anyone, she presented Indi in a continual positive way and the talk was about how Indi could benefit. She is very passionate towards Indi, and I think that sums it all up,” he said.
Despite the Deacons being busy doing various office administration roles, the pair was able to find time to attend to different committee meetings and learning about diverse issues within parliament and around Australia. These included forums and networking events hosted by the Clean Energy institute, the Clean Energy Council, Australian Dairy Industry, Australian Men’s Shed Association, and the WA Mental Health Organisation - Youth Forum.
Ken also attended the release of General Sir John Monash’s wartime papers. The fact Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Australian War Memorial Brendan Nelson made speeches, and dignitaries included Speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop, demonstrated the high regard the event was held.
“I was very honoured Cathy gave me the responsibility to go (to the Australian War Memorial) on behalf of her; it really lifted me a lot,” he said.
“All the papers were presented on a table, so to be able to browse the book in this way was fantastic. I’ve never been in a situation like that before in my life.”
Describing the release as very important to Australia’s culture and WWI involvement, Ken said reading the original handwritten papers was quite a moving experience.
“The letters were very personal. One had been written to his wife the night before he went to Gallipoli, saying, ‘maybe he’d be return, maybe he wouldn’t’,” he said.
Mr Deacon said officials from the Department of Defence and the curator of the Australian War Memorial were happy to chat with him and he also received an understanding of how the Independent Member for Indi is perceived in Canberra.
“Everyone was very welcoming and when I told them I was there on behalf of Cathy, there was a real interest I was there representing her. I got the sense she is quite well respected, through the people I met. It’s a credit to her for getting that respect,” Ken said.
Come 2pm every day during the sitting week, the volunteers took seats in the gallery for the daily ritual that glues many people to TV sets or Twitter: the hour-long theatrics of Question Time.
“I really enjoyed the antics they got up to. Being able to attend Question Time to witness the argy bargy that happens between the government and the opposition members was a big highlight,” Ken said.
The Deacons were present when the Independent Member for Indi stood up for rural and regional students and education, asking Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, whether he would meet with the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture to discuss the impact of proposed changes to the Budget. The underwhelming response was duly noted by Ken.
“Cathy’s question was great but the fob-off she got was quite disappointing,” he said.
“It was a very relevant question for all the ag students in rural areas.”
He encouraged anyone with an interest in Parliament to consider volunteering in the Canberra office of Ms McGowan as a way of learning how democracy works in Australia.
“I enjoyed every aspect of it, the whole experience was really enlightening,” he said.
“If the offer is there you should go and do it, whether you’re politically minded or not, it gives you a really good insight into how the country is run.”