News and Events

Voices for Indi needs your help to publish a book

Voices for Indi has a compelling and important story to tell about everyday people from communities in Indi mobilising at a grassroots level and claiming back their power in our democracy. In 2022 it will be 10 years since Indi first went ‘maverick’ electing community independent Cathy McGowan. So much has happened since then as Indi has continued to make history, putting people back in to politics. We want to mark this milestone by writing a book.

The book will be written by many of those closely involved with Voices for Indi and will go behind the scenes of the three successful election campaigns 2013, 2016 and 2019. It will look at how and why the community got involved leading to over 1700 people volunteering in Helen Haines’ 2019 successful campaign. Cathy McGowan and Helen Haines will both contribute a chapter. Laneway Press will assist us to publish but we need to raise $40,000 to cover costs. No authors will be paid -they are all volunteering!

The book will also provide information and inspiration to the many other communities around Australia now seeking to emulate what happened in Indi.

You can donate at

Indi Connects – Oxley Shire Hall – 5 October 2019

V4i remains strongly committed to encouraging active participation in our democracy. We ‘Do Politics Differently’ in Indi and the number of people interested in  joining this very positive movement continues to grow.  The V4i grass roots, community driven model is a respectful, values based approach to politics and a welcome alternative to the negative, adversarial style of politics we commonly see.

So many citizens are  rejecting this ‘old power’ and the ‘Indi Connects’ workshop held on the 5 October at the Oxley Shire Hall was a demonstration of ‘new power’  democracy in action.

Indi Connects was a purposeful event,  attended by over 120 people who spent the day connecting with others to actively plan ways to take responsibility for the type of communities we live in. V4i is encouraged by the fact that so many participants are openly proud to be involved with this grass roots movement and many expressed a sense that Indi is well on its way to becoming the most politically engaged electorate in Australia.

V4i was very fortunate to have Peter Kenyon travel all the way from Kalamunda in WA to be guest MC for this workshop.  Peter describes himself as a ‘social capitalist and community enthusiast’. He is a founder and current director of an organisation called the Bank of Ideas 

Peter uses stories from his extensive work around the world where he has assisted communities to identify and build on strengths and assets to create change and renewal.  He has followed the story of V4i and said that in his opinion the movement is one of the most exciting and positive examples of participatory democracy that he knows of. Click on this link to view Peter’s talk at the workshop

Three Indi based community groups were showcased on the day.  Representatives from these groups each told stories about how their communities had activated/mobilised to solve issues and/or create change.

Norma Pearce, volunteer coordinator of the of Tolmie TOAST program (Tolmie Offers A Seat to Town), spoke about how the inspirational Tolmie community got organised and set up a local car-pooling system to assist residents to get to their nearest town centre, Mansfield. This action was designed to overcome social isolation and a lack of public transport and in their area.  Click on this link to view Norma’s talk at the workshop

Lauriston Muirhead of WATCH (Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health) spoke to us about their group’s initiatives to raise awareness of our climate crisis.  Click on this link to view Lauriston’s talk at the workshop

Sally Gamble from Tomorrow Today, Benalla’s own philanthropic foundation, spoke about the PEEP program (Parents Early Education Partnership) PEEP targets Early Childhood and parents as part of the overall Education Benalla initiative Tomorrow Today Foundation works collaboratively across the whole community to improve educational outcomes for Benalla’s young people. Click on this link to view Sally’s talk at the workshop

Federal member for Indi, Helen Haines was the next guest speaker and she outlined the role of her office in supporting community led action. Helen introduced her staff to the community and spoke about the best ways to effectively engage with your local MP’s and some of the mechanisms for change that are available.

Results from Helen’s community consultation throughout the 2019 election campaign, where constituents identified the top ten issues of highest priority, were then used to form the basis of facilitated group discussions to develop action plans. Click on this link to view Helen’s talk at the workshop.

Participants left the day feeling inspired and motivated and with a clearer idea of how they could connect with others to help address these issues and build on what has already been achieved in Indi. By the end of the day, existing connections were built on and strengthened and new ones were developed – people were excited by what was possible through collaboration.

V4i would like to thank all who participated for their ongoing commitment to our local communities and for their willingness to ‘roll their sleeves up’ and respond to individual and collective calls to action and we encourage everyone in Indi to get involved.

One of the eleven discussion groups facilitated by community members


Community process for identifying new candidate

Voices for Indi (V4i) has worked since 2012 to give voice to our communities and to encourage quality candidates to stand for election to represent the people of Indi. In the past two federal parliamentary terms, with Cathy McGowan AO as Member for Indi (2013-16 and 2016-19), we witnessed the benefits of Independent representation and doing politics differently.

In this spirit, V4i facilitated an innovative process in January 2019 for the community to choose an Independent candidate to succeed Cathy. No one on the V4i committee voted in this process – the community decided which of the three applicants they wanted to invite to stand. Helen Haines was invited and went on to become the first Independent since 1901 to follow an Independent in the same seat in Australia’s parliament. We all celebrate her achievement and the people and communities of Indi who worked so hard to support Helen’s campaign.

V4i will always foster participatory democracy and enable the people and communities of Indi to continue to have an effective voice. What has been achieved in our communities in 2019 is bigger than this election. What we as the people of Indi started in 2012 is resonating across the country. We will continue to do politics differently.


Helen Haines confirms her commitment to the Indi community

NURSE, midwife and rural health researcher Helen Haines today confirmed her commitment to the consultative, empowering approach to community representation established by the Orange Independent movement and two-term Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan AO MP.

Dr Haines was chosen at a meeting of 200 Orange Independent supporters in Benalla on Saturday to succeed Ms McGowan as the next Orange Independent candidate for Indi.

“In the past few years the political parties have shown themselves to be more interested in leadership challenges, infighting and scandals than in actually representing the people who elected them,” she said.

“But six years ago, we in Indi made a different choice: we elected Cathy McGowan who has spent every moment of her time in office working solely to listen, represent and advocate for the people of Indi.

“Cathy has shown that politics can be done differently and she has delivered incredible results for Indi. But there’s more to be done and I am humbled to put myself forward, and if chosen by the people of Indi, to carry on that work.

“I love this region and I care very much about the people who make these communities their home. My home.

“As every nurse has, I have been by people’s bedsides at some of best and worst points in their lives. In these times I have seen the very real impact that public policy decisions made by government can have.

“After decades working to improve heal on a local level, I am ready to take up that fight to Canberra.”

Dr Haines has lived and worked in Indi for 32 years, as a nurse and midwife in Chiltern and Wangaratta and now as a rural health researcher with the University of Melbourne’s Department of Rural Health at its Northeast Health Wangaratta campus.

“Indi is so full of possibilities,” she said.

“We can grow our region to a greater, sustainable prosperity and but to do that we need a focus on the long term, and we need access to top quality education and health services.”

Dr Haines grew up in a south-western Victorian dairy-farming family and attended Eurack’s rural state school of just 12 students before going to secondary school.

She said her own experience was that education delivered opportunities and enabled young people to pursue their dreams.

“Opportunity starts with education and in Indi we are well are below the state average,” Dr Haines said.

“Barriers to successful education begin a lot earlier than at year 12: we desperately need better investment in early years and post-secondary education.”.

Dr Haines said she was also deeply passionate about broadening the scale and scope of health services available in Indi’s communities.

“As a country nurse and midwife who has cared for people through the most vulnerable times of their lives, I have become a walking billboard for improved access to lifespan healthcare for our communities,” she said.

“There is real community concern about mental health and aged care and there is much more to fight for in terms of policy adjustments to Medicare that acknowledge the rural context.”

Dr Haines said championing local renewable energy projects was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build the regional economy.

“Climate change isn’t only a crisis; it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rewrite how the economic pie is divided between the cities and the regions,” she said.

“Clean, cheap energy – and all of the jobs this could create in regional Australia – is not a controversial issue in the country. We can and are leading the way in Indi but to do it we need MPs to champion this huge opportunity rather than stand in the way.”

Dr Haines also said the values expressed in ’The Indi Way’ of community representation had been inherent in her life.

“The values of respect, inclusion, diversity, listening; of recognising the power within communities – these are the values by which I’ve lived my life,” she said.

“This is not about the individual MP. It’s not about a party or a rigid ideology. It’s about all of us. I have not harboured lifelong political ambitions. But regional communities like ours rely on people showing up and pitching in. So, too, does our way of doing politics.”

Media Advisory for January 14 2018

Helen Haines selected by Voices for Indi forum as next ‘orange independent’ candidate for Indi. 

Helen Haines, a nurse, midwife and public health researcher from Wangaratta has been chosen by a Voices for Indi forum to be their next independent candidate in Indi.


Over 200 volunteers from Cathy McGowan’s past election campaigns selected Haines, 57, from a panel of three nominees. The first of its kind process put candidates through six hours of questioning and deliberation.


The decision was reached by consensus of all 200 participants.

Helen will be available for comment with Cathy McGowan MP on Monday at 10am in Wodonga.

WHERE: The Cube Wodonga

WHEN: 10am, Monday January 14

CONTACT: Alana Johnson, 0427 624 214

Quotes attributable to Helen Haines:


“It’s a privilege to have been part of this unique process and to have the support of the ‘orange army’ to be their next independent candidate in Indi.”


“I’ve lived in the north east for 32 years. I have raised my family here and have spent my professional life fighting to improve the quality of healthcare in our region. If I earn the support of the voters of Indi, I will be ready to take that fight to Canberra.


“We’ve seen over the last six years in Indi the huge difference it makes having an independent voice in Parliament. Cathy has delivered incredible results for Indi. But the work has only just begun and we can’t afford for the seat to revert back into the hands of the major parties to be ignored once more.


“It’s why I’m very excited to get to work – to get out there in the community I love, to listen to their issues and hopefully earn their trust to be the next independent member for Indi.”