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.”