Launching Richmond’s first series of ‘Kitchen Table Conversations’
Over the weekend, we launched an important new report about the responses we received from a series of ‘kitchen table conversations’ held across the Richmond electorate called Engaging Richmond 2014.
The process provided a powerful reminder for me that people, if given the opportunity, are interested in talking about political issues, but that politics, and too many politicians, are not that interested in people.
The voting public has sadly become the viewing public, an audience for politicians but, increasingly, no longer their chief constituency. In this climate, democracy is stripped down to numbering boxes on a skinny slip of paper or worse, distorted when politicians become the voice of big business interests.
However, last year ordinary people in the regional towns of Wangaratta, Wodonga and Benalla, took back the power they had lost, using ‘kitchen table conversations’ to first empower and then galvanise the community through their report, Voice for Indi.
In the past four months, we’ve aimed to bring Indi’s success to the Richmond electorate. We’ve found despite the busy lives that city people lead, scores of people from different political persuasions, ages and locations have come together, around kitchen tables, in neighbourhood houses and community centres to talk about the issues that matter to them.
So what did participants say in these conversations?
In conversation after conversation, people talked about the importance of recognising the many differences in the community, and at the same time having ways people can come together, across ethnic, culture, class and age differences.
Much of what people wanted in a community was already present. One thing that comes comes through intensely is how much people love living here. People love the river and the creek that snake around us to the north, south and east, they love our heritage parks and shopping strips, the food, the amazing community services and schools, our council but most of all the love the people here.
People are equally clear about what they want from their political representatives – someone who doesn’t just react but who will show vision and lead, someone who knows and represents the diversity of the electorate, who isn’t in debt to big business or unions, who doesn’t demonise their opponents, and who will stand up for what they believe.
Other issues people were concerned about were the East West tollway, which was raised again and again, the need for good quality public services including Aboriginal health services, community health services and TAFE, marriage equality, addressing the drug problem and reproductive rights.
I’ll leave you now to read the report for yourself but would lastly like to acknowledge Mary Crooks from the Victorian Women’s Trust and the people of the federal seat of Indi who first championed the process before it was welcomed here in Richmond.
If elected, I commit to repeating the ‘kitchen table conversation’ process in my first term, so that community members have the chance to tell me their concerns, ideas and criticisms, and have a transparent forum, beyond the election, to hold me to account.