By Parker McKenzie
Voices Of Casey has launched its campaign to find an independent candidate who represents the views of the community for the next federal election with an information night, drawing from the experience of other political engagement groups who have helped elect independents to parliament.
The meeting was held on Tuesday 27 January and was attended by 21 community members and two guests: Alana Johnson, a past president for Voices of Indi, chair of the Victorian Women’s Trust and a director for the community independent program, and Susan Benedyka, an independent Senate candidate for Victoria.
Spokesperson Fionn Bowd led the meeting and began by outlining what Voices of Casey is trying to achieve.
“Some of you may know a little bit about this and some of you may not have heard of the Voices movement that is sweeping the land,” Ms Bowd said.
“Alongside existing members in Helen Haines and Zali Steggall, we’re also seeing a large number of community independent candidates who are standing for election all around Australia,
“Some of the issues that seem to be really bringing people together around Australia in the community are climate action, gender equality, action in relation to gender violence and gender inequality and also federal accountability.”
Voices For Indi, which formed in 2012 after people within the electorate felt they weren’t being represented by their elected officials, launched a framework of community engagement which has inspired over 40 similar groups around Australia.
Voices for Indi helped elect Cathy McGowan to federal parliament in 2013 and 2016, and Helen Haines in 2019. Indi is the only federal electorate to be represented by two successive independent candidates.
Ms Johnson said you cannot count the number of different ways the Voices For movement is important.
“Voices groups are actually an antidote to the ills of our representative democracy dominated by the major parties, who are becoming increasingly involved in partisan politics,” she said.
“it’s not going to happen unless we take action.”
Ms Johnson said Voices For has changed how people view politics in Indi.
“Our whole modus operandi has to be different and it has to be driven by ordinary people,” she said.
“People now have a sense that politics is part of our everyday life, politics doesn’t have to be a battleground, that you can talk to people who have different party preferences and still talk about what’s best for Indi.”
A Voices group, using the model developed in Indi, also endorsed Zali Steggall in Warringah when she beat former-Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the 2019 federal election.
The Casey electorate is located in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne and includes the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges. Suburbs in the electorate include Chirnside Park, Lilydale, Mooroolbark, Kilsyth, Montrose and Mount Evelyn.
Voices of Casey will be hosting a meet-and-greet with former Indi MP Cathy McGowan and writer Tim Flannery on 8 February before they begin to choose a candidate for the federal election.
Anyone interested in running as the Voices Of Casey candidate has until 7 February to apply, before an intensive selection process begins.
Ms Dowd told Star Mail on 25 January the panel to select the candidate will be made up of members from established Voices groups like Indi, to give guidance to a new group with dwindling time before a federal election that will be held in May at the latest.
“The philosophy isn’t vote for me, it’s about voting for someone who represents the communities’ values,” she said.
“If they tick all those boxes when they apply, there will then be a panel interview.”
For more information visit www.facebook.com/VoicesofCasey or www.voicesofcasey.org/candidate_search