COME November 26, says Independent Jeni Jobe, the most likely result is a Labor Government, ideally a minority one with a strong cross bench – including her.
“If our representative is in Opposition they have to ask their party for permission to stand up and speak. If I get onto the cross bench I can talk to any party. I can look at any situation from the viewpoint of the Bass community.”
She sees standing as an Independent as her way of serving the community that nourishes her. “The only chance we have to make the government listen is at the polling booth. I want to contribute to setting up a minority government.
The Jobe family name is synonymous with Phillip Island and it’s hard to think of a more quintessentially Phillip Island childhood than hers. She was born in Warley Hospital, Cowes, in 1972, and grew up living in the Continental Hotel on the Esplanade, which her family owned and operated.
An artist and designer, she traces her career to long nights spent in the reception area drawing, while she waited for her parents to finish work. “The arts are as important to me as breathing. I’ve done it ever since I can remember.”
As she got older, she worked in the hotel as well. She did lots of different jobs but the one she recalls most clearly is holding the door open to greet guests when the tour buses arrived.
When she left school she studied visual arts in Melbourne and later branched into graphic design and marketing. She returned to the island and now lives in San Remo. “Phillip Island and Western Port are such a big part of my identity.”
She grew up with a sense that it was important to play her part in the community and has contributed her artistic and graphic arts skills to community groups ranging from Totally Renewable Phillip Island and the Energy Innovation Co-operative to ArtSpace Wonthaggi and the successful Save Westernport campaign to stop AGL building a gas import terminal at Crib Point.
Her community involvement has evolved gradually into political action. In 2020 she stood unsuccessfully for the council. This year she helped with the campaign for Deb Leonard, who stood as an Independent candidate for Monash in the federal election.
Top issues for Bass
1. Sand mining in Western Port Woodlands
“We need a moratorium on sand extraction from the Western Port Woodlands. The whole colonial mindset of our governments is about ripping out resources instead of looking at a circular economy. The lack of care and planning at the state level is mind boggling.”
2. Community infrastructure.
“I’ve seen playground equipment falling apart, the Warneet jetties being closed because they’re no longer safe. San Remo has no hall. We have two pubs and new developments but no shared spaces. Koo Wee Rup has a hall but the community can’t afford to rent it.”
3. Community health services.
“Appointments are back to back. It might be a profitable business model but it’s not an effective service for the community. I’d like to see nurse practitioners play a bigger role in community health with better access to Medicare numbers.”
“With the last 10 years of working with groups like Save Westernport, it’s been a really logical progression to stand up for the environment at the state level.”
As an independent, she sometimes gets asked if she’s being funded by Climate 200, Simon Holmes a Court’s organisation that funded the “Teal” independents in the federal election.
The answer is “I wish!” She is using her own savings to run the campaign, along with a few donations from supporters. She has a core campaign team advising her from different parts of the community.
When we meet, she has just returned from a two-day conference on the circular economy and is buzzing with ideas. She would like to see regional hubs for food growers – “Rather than everyone driving into Melbourne to the wholesale market in Epping and then having to truck it out again, how about a food hub at Caldermeade, near the future airport and rail line?”
She says Totally Renewable Phillip Island has provided the vision for what can happen when the community works together. What started as a project to get rid of single-use plastic bags on the island has now evolved into a multifaceted group that is facilitating an EV buying program and partnering in a landmark community energy project.
At the start of the campaign she was clearly nervous speaking in public but is now looking more relaxed. At the Wonthaggi forum she talked about mental health and the cruelty imposed on anyone who is different, especially in schools. She won the room with her plea: “We have to be kinder to one another.”
She classes herself as being “on the spectrum” so forcing herself to speak to strangers has not been easy. “I’m not doing this for fun! But the connections you form are amazing. People are really happy to talk to someone who wants to listen. It brings it home to me why I stuck my head up.”