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Greens eye Parkes seat

Wednesday, 19th September, 2018

Broken Hill resident and disability worker Natasha Bearman, who’s set to run for the Federal seat of Parkes at the next national election. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Broken Hill resident and disability worker Natasha Bearman, who’s set to run for the Federal seat of Parkes at the next national election. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

Local resident Natasha Bearman has been chosen as the Greens candidate for the Federal seat of Parkes at the next election. 

A disability worker at the LiveBetter Organisation, Ms Bearman said she had made the announcement during the recent leadership crisis in Canberra because of the then-likely prospect of an early election. 

Now that her candidacy’s been announced, she said she’d be campaigning on her grassroots credentials and outsider status as someone with very little political experience.

“I’m not a politician, I’ve never been one and I have no idea of the processes and all that they go through, but what I do know is people and what our community needs,” she said.  

“The reason I’ve put forward for the position is that I do a lot of community-based work, and I see needs in the community that politicians often don’t see.

“I’m an advocate, that’s what I do. I go in and fight for people as everyone in Broken Hill knows. I believe our community deserves better.”

The ongoing issues surrounding the Darling River and Menindee Lakes, Coal Seam Gas mining in the Pilliga and Narrabri regions, and poor mobile internet connection in areas such as Wilcannia were the main issues she would be focusing on across the electorate.

Locally, extra funding for community services, addressing homelessness, as well as increased funding for healthcare and education were the key areas she’d be looking at.

“I believe our community deserves better, it deserves more funding for domestic violence, for free legal advice, more housing, homelessness services, and Broken Hill’s not alone,” she said.

“All regional communities are in very similar situations. So it’s all great for people to come and throw money around for museums and this and that, but they’re not what the community needs to thrive, at least in my opinion.”

For Ms Bearman though, the water flow issues from the Darling River and the Menindee Lakes Scheme were her number one priority.

“We need to sort this river business out, we need to sort the water out. That would be my number one thing,” she said.

“Jeremy Buckingham (Greens member in the New South Wales’ Upper House) has done a lot of ground work there, and the way we look at it is ‘that’s great but we need someone here running for that, who can be doing more than just making videos and talking about it.’”

Having been to Dubbo and Nyngan before, Ms Bearman acknowledged that a lot of travel was still required to talk to people all across the Parkes electorate. 

“My work covers a broad area ... I have a lot to do with other communities, and I know what their areas need,” she said.

“But what I’m going to have to do is travel and find out what other areas need as well. So I’ll be doing a road trip later on in the year going through the electorate.

“I would love for people in those areas to contact me because I’d love to go and chat to them when I’m there and find out what their specific needs are.”

A stronghold for the National Party since it was first contested in 1984, the history of the Parkes electorate has also made Ms Bearman realistic about her party’s chances at the next election.

“Because I’m running for Greens, and the party’s not been traditionally popular in regional Australia, I don’t have a high expectation per se, but I would like to make a difference,” she said.

“I would like people to know that there is an option that’s very community-minded, and that the Greens aren’t necessarily what they expected.”

Ms Bearman hoped that by announcing her candidacy now and talking to people she could break down the preconceptions they may have about her and the party.

“The grassroots situation means I don’t have to follow what they do in Newtown, because what they do in Newtown is not relevant to what they do in Broken Hill, or Coonabarabran, or Nyngan or Bourke, it’s just not the same,” she said.

“People have this perception that we’re anti-mining, which we’re not, it’s just that we don’t like mining in heritage forests or the Great Barrier Reef.

“I’m not anti-guns (either), especially in the outback. Responsible gun ownership is something that I think is essential out here.

“People think that the Greens all think kangaroos are endangered, which they’re not. I don’t believe they are. Having done some research, it’s obvious that it’s not during a drought numbers go down but that it’s just the ebb-and-flow of life, it doesn’t mean they’re endangered.”

“I’m (also) not one of these freaky types that’s going to tell people they’re not allowed to do this or that.” 

Union representation was another area Ms Bearman said was a key part of her platform.

“I’m not anti-union, I’m actually a union delegate. I’m very pro-union because I do believe that, especially in service areas, people aren’t being paid what they’re worth and not getting the training they need to do their jobs properly,” she said.

“We’ve got this inquiry into Aged Care, so if the money was being spent more on staff training or higher wages perhaps they would attract a better applicant and that applicant would then be educated with training. I see it all the time in disability work as well.”

Running as a Greens candidate in the last Broken Hill Council elections, Ms Bearman said the experience was eye-opening in regards to the internal strength needed for politics, an important lesson she’d apply for her Parkes campaign.

“The biggest thing was (that) the local Council election got quite nasty. I was having people yell abuse at me in the street because I was a Green,” she said.

“It was about the time the Greyhound (racing) ban came in, so I was opening my door one day and someone threatened me going past in a car. I had people on Facebook abusing me and the Greens because of all of that. 

“So what it’s taught me is I’ve got to be more resilient because I’m a bit of an empath. I care for people, so for me the hardest thing is hardening up and letting those things sort of wash over and focus on the cause and keep moving on.”

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