Voices4Cowper invite expressions of interest for Federal election candidates

Voices4Cowper’s ‘Kitchen Table Conversations’ established what qualities Cowper residents want in an Independent community election candidate. Photo: Voices4Cowper.

AFTER a listening campaign involving almost 800 voices across the Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Nambucca, Macleay and Port Macquarie regions, Voices4Cowper is inviting people interested in running as an Independent in the next Federal election to submit an expression of interest through its website.

Voices4Cowper formed in 2019 and supported the 2022 Federal Election campaign of Independent candidate Caz Heise, who narrowly lost to incumbent Nationals member Pat Conaghan.

The group has been inspired by the impact of community independents in Federal Parliament and the close result in Cowper at the last Federal election.

“The community feedback strongly indicates that the current representation, particularly by major parties, is not responding to the issues and concerns of the Cowper community,” said Phil von Schoenberg from the Voices4Cowper Steering Committee.

“There is interest in having an independent candidate who will more effectively engage with the community and take those concerns to Parliament, who is not tied to a party line and can act in line with the needs of our electorate.”

According to Voices4Cowper, potential candidates should demonstrate a connection to the community, achievement in work and/or community life, and a commitment to evidence-based solutions to problems facing the region.

The candidate should also have effective listening and communication skills and a demonstrated commitment to openness, transparency and integrity along with an ability to collaborate and negotiate to achieve positive outcomes.

The process will include participating in an online ‘Meet the Candidates’ forum with community feedback being considered by a selection committee that includes two members of the Voices4Cowper Steering Committee and two external community members.

Selection Committee member Kerry Grace lives in the Nambucca Valley and has worked to create regional impact in the Cowper electorate for 20 years.

“Having a strong community representation in Canberra is crucial to our collective voices being heard and in order to do that, choice among candidates is essential,” Ms Grace said.

Maura Luxford, an educator, author and long term Macleay Valley local, is also on the Selection Committee.

“I’m excited to be part of this process,” she said.

“Our democracy should be centred around the community, their values and needs.”

A number of expressions of interest have already been received for candidacy.

“We have already received indications from a couple of people, including Caz Heise, that they will be putting their hat in the ring, seeking community backing via the Voices4Cowper process,” said Bec Davis, co-chair of Voices4Cowper.

“We are committed to ensuring the process is as transparent and equitable as possible and to, again, giving members of the Cowper community an opportunity to participate in the process.

“We believe that democracy is stronger when the voices of the community are heard and represented.

“We hope that people will consider whether they, or someone they know, has the right mix of skills and characteristics that would make them an outstanding community-backed independent representative for Cowper.”

Expressions of interest close on Wednesday 26 June.

For more information, visit www.voices4cowper.org.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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