In 1988 I moved from Perth in Western Australia to the Pilbara Region of North Western Australia. I very quickly became involved in a range of community organisations, partly as an interest, but also to help improve facilities in the town of Newman where I was living.
Newman is an iron ore mining town and most of the population were employed by BHP at the time. People complained about how much wealth was created from the mine and they resented revenue leaving the town, especially when new facilities were needed locally. Another big issue was the trend towards workers “flying in and flying out (fi fo)” and the negative impact this had on the town. It didn’t take much for things to get political. It was an exciting time really.
Even though Newman is a mining town it is situation among some of the biggest pastoral stations in the state. The pastoralists had very different concerns to the miners.The Pilbara region is also home to a large Indigenous community and there are many support services for the wider community, including health and education.
One thing they all had in common was they wanted better roads. The East Pilbara Shire Council has an enormous geographic coverage and has councillors located throughout the region. I became interested in becoming a local councillor due to my severe irritation at the self-interest and bad attitudes of a councillor who was up for re-election. I decided to nominate and then the fun began 🙂
I had to design and print (on my dot matrix printer then) all my own election material. I purchased a second-hand photocopier and went to work mass producing my printed items. Posters, with my photo on them, were put up in all available spaces, including the mine site and the shops. I found that in no time they were decorated and I had grown a beard and horns! Just as well I have a sense of humour 🙂
As well as displaying the posters I also did a letter box drop and stopped and talked to people on the way. I was encouraged by the support I received. It was a great competition and there were a few nasty things happen behind my back – but that’s politics, so they say!
Polling day was exciting and exhausting – meeting and greeting people, kissing babies etc! That evening we gathered at the Council office to watch the count. I was thrilled to discover that I was successful. And so began a new journey for me into local government politics.
I really valued the opportunity to be at the front line of what was happening in the community. Doors opened to all sorts of opportunities. I had found a niche where I could put forward my ideas and gather the support from other councillors to see them implemented. Not that I was successful every time, no way. I had to learn the art of compromise.
When I look back at that time I realise how hard it is for anyone in politics to stick to their platform, ideas etc 100% of the time. Compromise is the order of the day – “I will support your motion if you will support mine”.
After some time I realised that I didn’t want to continue my political involvement. The will to do good can get lost in the muddiness of the politics and the power and the acclaim from those who want you to do their bidding.
Back to the simple life for me – I vote at every opportunity I can, but I don’t want to be on the other side of the political fence.
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