© 2018 Copyright, All rights reserved by Licia Heath for Wentworth.

Authorised by Licia Heath.

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MEET licia

Delivering Results for Our Community

What i stand for

There’s a saying that busy people are easy to manage, so I should have been eminently manageable: corporate job, mother of two, community volunteer, and director of two start-ups. As it turned out, the experience of being busy ultimately focused my energy on a new path of independent action.   

There I was, sitting at my desk in the financial sector with a high-paying, stable job… and becoming increasingly frustrated by Australia’s dysfunctional political landscape and repressing my sense of dissatisfaction. At the same time, the measures and metrics that financial economists were quoting seemed totally disconnected from what was happening to the average person in the street. “Only in economics is endless expansion seen as a virtue” David Pilling wrote in his new book, The Growth Delusion. “In biology, it is called cancer”. Gulp.

Like many working mothers, my mind was constantly churning through ever-expanding responsibilities, obligations and questions: Am I giving my kids enough quality time? Is their education progressing as expected? Am I excelling at my job? Does my house look presentable? Am I reducing our family’s plastic use? Am I buying sustainable fisheries tuna? Have we had a date night recently?

But then I looked up from my distracting preoccupations and took in the bigger picture. What I saw agitated and scared me and I haven’t been able to look down since.

LOOK UP WITH LICIA

Because what I saw was what should have concerned me all along: are self-interested political leaders preventing Australians from enjoying the stability we deserve? Is the news we’re consuming influenced by commercial biases? Is our data being harvested online? Are our social media networks being used to spread misleading ‘fake news’? Are vested interests running our country? The answer to all of these was yes. If vested interests are so inescapable, I wanted to know: what was the objective of these interests? To sell more products, make higher profits, or to influence our elected representatives?

 

I then decided to take a new direction: I’m committing to help others look up. So many of us feel a sense of irritation about the state of play in our political landscape and our global society more broadly, but what can ‘everyday people’ do about it? For starters, we need to engage and get involved. I wanted to participate not just in the areas of the community where women are traditionally made welcome, like the school P&C, campaigns for local suburban issues, volunteering at sporting events. These are all noble and valuable (and gee they keep us busy!), but I now wanted to engage with the big decisions: the environment our kids will inherit, the society we want for all our people, the future direction of our country. Because, as social researcher Hugh Mackay says, “The state of the nation starts in your street”. I began by spearheading a campaign in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney agitating the State Government for a new public high school. At the first community forum I ran, no one turned up. At the second forum, three people attended. Then it was ten, then twenty, then fifty. People said I was mad; that it would never change. But I’ve proven them wrong. In the last three months the Liberal Government has committed to turning Randwick Boys HS into a co-ed school and, this week, the Labor Government committed to building an entirely new, public co-ed high school in the East. Action is the antidote to this despair, and even though our democratic process seems sick and fatigued, we can repair it and return it to health... but only if we re-engage with politics in Australia. It’s time to step up!

Working for change

That’s why I soon joined the Board of Women for Election Australia, a non-partisan not-for-profit organisation committed to lifting the number of women in local, state and federal government. Its aim is to inspire and equip more women to enter public office via on-the-ground training. Increasing the number of women in Australian politics isn’t a silver bullet for all our current political woes, but getting a more representative Parliament is key to increasing political engagement in our communities. Why? Because it will help reduce the current deluge of ‘career politicians’ and the adversarial environment they’ve created, and it’ll help more diverse people with the skillsets we need to see a pathway into politics. Politics in Australia is an employment sector -- just like teaching or banking -- and it is still the best way to change the nature of our society. The only way for change to happen is for people to see the value of going into this sector. I’ve now recused myself from the Board to run for election as the Member for Wentworth.

 

It’s still important to me that our family reduces its plastic use, that my kids receive a strong public education, and that we buy Australian Made. But what I’ve realised is this: if more of us ‘ordinary people’ get involved, the more we can ensure our government legislates for these outcomes. If overseas experience is anything to go by, more women in public office results in more cross-party collaboration and broader policy outcomes that cater for a greater cross-section of our community. So while it serves current powerbrokers for us to stay busy and distracted, I’m done with that.

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