IT’S BEEN more than six months since I became the MP for Bass and I’m starting to settle into the job. It was overwhelming at first. There was so much to get my head around: all the projects happening in Bass, the schools, the community hospitals, the level crossings, the roads, the parks …
Then there is Parliament itself. I don’t know if it’s anyone’s natural habitat, it’s certainly not mine. You go in when the bells ring in the morning and you’re not allowed out until the evening. But it’s amazing to be at the centre of it all, to see people debate in the Chamber and laws being passed.
Question time is interesting and probably needs a major rethink in terms of bringing some civility and integrity back onto the floor. The language that gets hurled around the chamber can be personal and derogatory, loud and unproductive. We are 88 people representing over 6 million people – that is a gift in itself and representing our community and wanting the best outcomes should be at the fore rather than being contrary for the sake of it, trying to catch people out and plain shouting. If this occurred at a restaurant, or in the workplace or at my kitchen table – everyone would be asked to leave.
Public speaking has always been difficult for me although I rose to the challenge in year 7 at primary school and somehow won the inter-school competition. At the time, I thought that’s it, what fear shall I challenge next?
The fear came back much later when I was on the council and now in this chapter it is somewhat amplified. Presenting my inaugural speech in March was nerve wracking. That was 15 minutes, the only time that no one really interrupts and every time I looked up all eyes looked back!
Usually you’ve got 60 seconds or 90 seconds to speak, or 10 minutes if you’re speaking to a bill. My colleague Harriet Shing will just get up and speak without any notes. You read her transcripts in Hansard and she doesn’t miss a beat. Anyone who has listened to her speak at an event or opening is just in awe. Whilst I would love to get to that state, maybe this is just how it is and my process is what it is – write, write, write, start with a kazillion words and distil each version till I get to 1700, or 247 or 145 words.
We usually sit twice a month for three days at a time but most of our work is done in the electorate. That’s the best bit of the job; meeting, listening and talking with people, connecting them with a service, grant or community group and together working towards change for the better. I’ve visited all the schools at least once and I’ve been trying to get out to catch up with the community groups, emergency services, resident groups, health service providers and sports clubs.
It’s amazing how much I’m learning about my electorate from playing soccer. I trained with the Inverloch Stars last year but I couldn’t play on Sundays because that was an opportune market day stall, doorknock or local event visit. This year I decided I could actually play. They’re a great bunch of women. I’m very unfit and one of the oldest but it’s just great to run around, kick a ball, be active, and to get out of my head and be in the moment.
They decided I’d be a good goalie because I’m tall. I said “That’s great, but it’s a long way down and I’m too old to dive.” It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. I’ve injured my thumb, finger and ankle. Then the Sunday before last I went for the ball and got a boot in the face. There was blood, head pain and the game was stopped as I hit the deck. Got up, no blood rule, kept playing. Most importantly I saved the goal! My partner Mark got it on video and my kids were pretty impressed.
We play in the Konqa Cup, the women’s pre-season all day comp that has teams from Pakenham through to Warragul and down to the coast. A few weeks ago we were playing at Lang Lang. It’s a young club, they’ve only been going three or four years, and they contacted me the month earlier see if they could get funding for new goals. After connecting them to people and council it was timely to meet them on the pitch and find the opposing goalie was the clubs grant writer who I had been chatting too. As goalie I could see they really did need new goals!
This weekend we’re playing Wonthaggi. They’ve just got a VicHealth grant for new uniforms so I’ll get to check those out.
The same day I copped the boot in the face I attended the launch of the Phillip Island Festival of Stories at the Cape Kitchen. Two years ago a group of Phillip Islanders got together because they had an idea about telling stories. That first year, in the middle of winter, hundreds of people turned up to hear people – famous and not so famous – telling stories. Last year, the festival really established itself as something distinctive: not just a literary festival but a festival where the oral tradition of story telling is as valued as the written one. So it includes comedians, musicians and film makers.
Founder Kay Setches has always been firm that there should be a big Indigenous component. It’s part of the reason for the festival’s success. There is a growing hunger in many people to know more about the lives, past and present, of our Indigenous people. And 2019 is the UN International year of Indigenous Languages, after all, and with one becoming extinct worldwide every two weeks there is a sense of urgency to do everything we can.
This year’s festival has received $43,000 from Creative Victoria and what a fabulous array of creatives coming along. The keynote address on the Friday night is by acclaimed actor/writer Uncle Jack Charles and best-selling author Tom Keneally. On the program are Denise Scott, Melissa Lucashenko, Kutcha Edwards, Munya Andrews, Amy Bodossian, Anna Snoekstra, and social activist Jeremy Wiggins, as well as some esteemed locals, including poet Adam Cope, ex mayor and historian Pam Rothfield and super coach Beau Vernon.
At Sunday’s event, they were very understanding of their local MP’s nose and the race from field to launch affecting the run sheet of the day. And what a highlight that a southern right whale breached away just outside the venue. People rushed to the big windows to take in the amazing sight. It capped off a great afternoon. Every time the whale shot out of the water, the crowd exclaimed in unison “AWE!”