I wanted to write about the recent Federal Election for 2019. I was nominated and ran as a candidate in the seat of Richmond, which loosely covers from South Ballina to Tweed Heads. As most know I run businesses in the area and am a long time local with my grandfather being born in Ballina while my great grandfather was one-time mayor of the town.
After being nominated and running in the Ballina Local Government elections in 2016, many may consider running in the Federal Election another step… or possibly a big step. For me it was another opportunity to get on the street and interact and talk with the community. It’s always refreshing to step out in this way as you learn so much about what is going on. Even though being in business you find yourself in contact with many people, it seems like election time brings out everyone and in that you have an opportunity to meet more people.
When the opportunity literally came knocking it took less than minutes to say yes. My sense was that any time you get a chance to show who you truly are to the community is one worth saying yes to. It was a short campaign for us but still an enormous learning. I was approached by a member of the general community in Ballina run as a candidate, he simply asked me the question had I considered it. Initially I laughed as it seemed like it was out of reach. But seconds later it was more why not, and it made sense given how I am and what I had seen happening in the area over many years. So I contacted my family to get more views on how this may look and to see how they felt about it. Briefly there was hesitation but once we discussed how I saw the opportunity, everyone was on board to support.
The work began…..
Not really knowing anything about what was needed practically for even applying to be a candidate, the learning was on. The application was done for the House of Representatives, which required the completion of paperwork and an application fee as well as being nominated by 100 local people. With the paperwork done, we set about securing the 100 signatures. The signatures formed an essential part of the application in that without them you couldn’t be nominated. The key ingredient was that the nominators needed to live or be registered to vote in the electorate you were running in. All up we got about 140 signatures, and then all the paperwork needed to be registered in person. I went to the closest electoral office and put the application in.
After a period of time they let me know that I could be short some signatures due to many people not knowing they didn’t live in the electorate. I found this a common thing as the electoral boundaries had change in the last election and with people being unsure of the differences between Local, State and Federal Governments, this added to the confusion. A number of conversations for the day on the street in Tweed Heads added to my signature list and the application was through. This in itself was a highlight and key mark – not only had a never done it before but it already required a level of transparency. It’s not that people didn’t know you, it was more the depth of conversations you were having with people had already changed. I have never been a ‘vote chaser’ or a salesman in this way, I have always been a more reserved supportive ‘close to home’ style person and now this was shifting again.
There were many moving parts to navigate with all that came with the election, as well as still bringing the same quality to the family, businesses and all I was already doing. It was easy to think there was no room for something like this, but that’s never really been how I am, with more of a ‘why not’ rather then a possibly more protective approach. A small team of support was brought together quickly and we laid out simple plan. The key ingredient or part was listening: what truly at this point was the greater community asking for, and then what part of that could I support with in how I am? Given that the community had nominated me, why? What was the quality the community were looking to me to ground and why, and how did that look in a Federal Election…?
The simplest of plans, the community for many years had been coming to me to be heard, regularly coming into my business or stopping me in the street to talk of all the things they see going on. They had long discussed how what they are asking for isn’t being met by government; they felt disconnected and that the government moved in isolation to the community. With this they didn’t feel respected and so many had then disconnected themselves or distanced themselves from the government system, only engaging it when needing to or required and then being reaffirmed in the view that it wasn’t a great idea to do that in the first place.
The plan opened up quickly; listen – but not idly – then move and interact with the community in a quality that listens to and respects them, bringing back the decency to our most basic interaction. This would be the ‘cornerstone’ or foundation for this election for us: decency – not as a headline or catch phrase but as a living quality in every interaction, no matter the setting or audience. We marked this as not the end or answer but the starting point… a point or foundation to come back to and not allow even the most basic human interaction to stray from. Some may say this quality of plan has no place in a Federal Election given it’s about policies and ‘big picture’ ideas or headlines to ‘tell the voters’ what you’re about. From my experience anyone can tell someone anything, but few if any ground what they are saying in action at the first point. I guess this may be where the term ‘election promise’ comes from… the forever promise of what is said but not grounded or actioned. It’s possible that what people are truly asking for doesn’t always come from their mouths alone or from statistics alone . . . what I had heard from the community was they wanted more and as a starting point they were saying we needed decency.
This allowed me a freedom and made it all super simple. It wasn’t about what new things or policy I could bring to the table but about more deeply grounding the quality I am in everything we did. So if someone wanted to talk to me then they had me for as long as needed. If someone had a question, no matter where they lived, then they had me. It wasn’t about getting myself in front of as many people as possible, it was about bringing everything I am to every point and so not about numbers but about quality. This quality needed to be there for everyone, so no matter where someone lived or who someone was, the interaction we were having or the quality of the interaction was the everything, or in essence was the election.
This set up the election for me as a part of life and not just something I or we did or went to do. Everything I was already was also a part of the election: family, businesses, friends, it was an important part not to ‘leave’ them in order to ‘do’ something else that could be perceived as more important. Everything was everything and so the election run wasn’t my life for a short time or just something I did, it became another part of my everyday. This allowed me the space to see everyone and offer all that was needed because naturally I was already ‘it’. Sure 1500 odd votes didn’t get me elected, or even close as some may point out, but what was the election about and how do we measure success? End results don’t always indicate quality and it’s no disrespect to others or similar. I am presenting that from the feedback I have received and from my lived experience we delivered the election campaign that was needed, and in this for us it was a huge success.
Essentially people were watching to see how they have seen things go in the past. We’ve had great people become lost and disconnected within the system. There is a miss trust it would seem with many of us now standing back because of what we have seen happen to others, and yet this allows things to become more of the same. The only way for things to change is if we bring or are the change – we live all we truly are no matter what the setting, headline or job. In this way the election was groundbreaking for us; I didn’t go into ‘election mode’ or go out to ‘get votes’. I stayed wholeheartedly with all I knew, all that has supported me to be who I truly am and walked, talked and moved that. The election was refreshing and as some people have indicated in what they saw, a ‘self development’, meaning they watched someone in place of getting lost actually walk out with a deeper sense of who they already are: no disconnection and not isolated from the community, a moving, living example of policy and government, not a billboard or a savour but an already working sense of how it can and will be. In this we have no need to promise or promote, only to keep working to the same deeper point and show that we go nowhere.
So where to now, or what is next? That is over again to us all, together. You have asked for more input into government, more transparency, more connection, more care and so as a team we will keep building us back to this point. As with everything we aren’t going to it as we already know it, hence we can see when it’s not there. So coming soon we will offer you a framework for this… another opportunity for us to come together collectively to have our say.
It seems like a decent point to start….