We are often influenced by the community as we transition from childhood into the strong values we hold as an adult. In Bernadette Thomas’ case, she is defined by a drive to serve the community, instilled by her parents during her early years on the north coast of New South Wales.
Bernadette was influenced by the community work her parents selflessly participated in and observed how things could get done working together as a community to achieve the many outcomes to improve living standards and help those less fortunate than us.
She initially embarked on a teaching career specialising in economics and geography but like many other teachers before her and since, another career beckoned as the rewards in education were unfortunately mixed. She saw the value of service and giving to the community so transferred her passion and experience to local government where she is now a waste and environment manager.
As Bernadette began to settle almost eleven years ago in Yarraville her political views linked with her community service needs; she began to pay attention to political policy to determine if what the major parties were saying made sense and if they were achieving outcomes which met here own goals for the community. She searched for something different with evidence-based policies rather than the platitudes populist politicians were spruiking from the big parties, more focused on community polarisation for their own benefit than working together; the Greens delivered for her.
Encouraged to come along to a local meeting of the Greens she found a common passion with the shared visions offering her a credible option to the major parties, so she became a valuable member of her local region. Given her background in local government, Bernadette was soon attracted to standing for council and sought preselection numerous times to stand as a Greens candidate. This preselection process was at times daunting and she learnt the adversarial nature of politics which challenged her at times until she understood more fully the process.
Bernadette was encouraged to stand for preselection for the federal seat of Gellibrand and even this process was daunting as she was friends with the other three candidates, and indeed, the preselection delegates were well known to her and many close friends.
“The thing that politics teaches you is the necessity to step out of your comfort zone,” Bernadette explained at out meeting in Newport. “Speaking formally to your friends trying to convince them you are a better choice than your friends is rather harrowing.”
Bernadette won the preselection and has been very active since in trying to convince the local community that it’s time for something different in Gellibrand. “Perhaps it’s time for a new representative who can deliver a credible alternative rather than the ambitious politician we normally have for years and years with representatives of the Labor party.”
The issues surrounding the Gellibrand campaign come down to three major policies which Bernadette has identified as she knocks thousands of doors of many electors she has shared meaningful discussion with. “Housing is a significant issue for many people, in particular for renters trying to purchase a residence and ending the uncertainty they currently experience in setting secure down roots for their family.”
“The second issue which comes up in most conversations is the increasing infrastructure deficit, long ignored in this electorate by all levels of government. This lack of initiative on local issues over many years is a direct result of the representation in the safe Labor seats of the region. This is a reason why voters should be unafraid to change their vote – otherwise nothing will change for us.”
“Strangely, but not surprisingly, the third major issue the electorate cares about is the wetlands in the region and residents want to see more done in developing and protecting them.”
Bernadette is pragmatic to know that the challenge in unseating one of the safest Labor seats in Australia will be an enormous task but is optimistic that if voters take a risk and change their vote then change can happen, not only locally but also in Canberra. She has enjoyed meeting so many local residents during her campaigning but the demands on resources can be a little jading at times and remains convinced there is a growing wish for change. “The community are cynical of the ambitious rarely seen politicians and want a more community focused representative.”
“My goal is to increase the vote for the Greens and I am confident if I do then perhaps we can achieve change for all of us.”