Meet a Candidate – Nicole Lawder

31 August 2016

With the ACT election looming,  we are meeting the women candidates standing for election for the ACT Legislative Assembly, to learn a bit more about them and their priorities for the communityNicole Lawder - blog. This week meet Nicole Lawder MLA, Member for Brindabella.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I have lived in various suburbs of Tuggeranong ever since I arrived in Canberra in 1988, with my young family on a Defence posting. Over the past nearly 30 years, I have raised my family and now my husband and I have five children and 12 grandchildren, who all live in Tuggeranong. I have a dog,  six chickens, a veggie garden and fruit trees. I have finished university degrees, volunteered, worked, shopped and played sport in Tuggeranong all through that time, as have our children. As a Tuggeranong local, I love meeting and talking with people in my electorate and helping them with their issues: their issues are my issues, because I live in Tuggeranong too.

What drove you to run for the Legislative Assembly?

I see myself as very much an ordinary Canberran, who came late to political life after varied careers in the public, private and not for profit sectors. A lot of people ask me how and why I got into politics, and recently I spoke about my journey to politics at length in an interview with Ginger Gorman for HerCanberra, you can listen to the podcast here.  In a nutshell, I had a good job and a peaceful life when about 14 years ago my brother was seriously injured at work, and several people died and others were also injured. In fact, not to be melodramatic, but he was shot (twice) in a mass shooting. He survived and actually won several bravery awards for his actions, but it led me to question what I was doing with my life. So I started a new career in the not-for-profit sector, firstly working in the disability sector, and then the homelessness sector. Over time, my desire to make our community better led to standing for election for the ACT Legislative Assembly.

What is something that people may be surprised to know about Brindabella, and what do you see as the key issues facing the electorate?

Locals have a real love for their area, but are feeling neglected and left behind. The major issues for people that I talk to every week include the increases in rates and the cost of living generally, and they are concerned about the health system. They are concerned about basic services like mowing and weeds, litter and graffiti, the water quality of Lake Tuggeranong, and about the odour issues, probably coming from the tip, which are affecting some suburbs. This has been ongoing since November last year and the Government has not fixed the problem. And of course a huge issue for Tuggeranong is the Government’s plans for light rail which, from the people I speak to, is deeply unpopular in the area.

What are the barriers that you see to gender equality in our community, and how do you propose to address this?

Earlier this year I was elected as the ACT Representative to the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Australian Region Steering Committee. In this role, I have been able to champion the role of women in political life, and most recently in June 2016 I organised a forum called “Stepping Up” for young women with no prior involvement in politics, aimed at giving them a bit of information about political life and how to become more involved, and help shape our own community. I am keen to do more activities to encourage women to take a greater role in politics, as I believe our politicians should be representative of our broader community.

In our election platform we have identified three priority areas which require ongoing action. How do you envisage developing a more inclusive, equitable Canberra?

My previous work in the community sector has driven home to me the importance of community inclusion and equality. While on the face of it Canberra is a prosperous city, there is hidden disadvantage and I am committed to working to improve our community for all Canberrans. My responsibilities as Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services and Shadow Minister for Housing have also provided me with deeper understanding of the issues facing our community and my experience gives me insights into how to address some of those issues. If I am part of the ACT Government in the future, I will be working to address inequality and create opportunities. One of my own small contributions to “walking the talk” on inclusion is that I employ a person who is deaf, so we communicate with each other using Australian Sign Language, or Auslan. I had to go to CIT classes for a few years to learn Auslan.

What is the change that you are passionate about seeing in Canberra?

I am very committed to improving water quality in our lakes and waterways. This is important not just for amenity and enjoyment everyday, but part of a broader water and food security challenge for us. Recently the federal government committed a large funding package towards water quality improvements in the ACT and the ACT Government also contributed towards this total amount. Ensuring these projects take place is vital, but just as important is shaping community attitudes and behaviour about what we can do each day to ensure our waterways are the cleanest they can be. This can range from keeping our gutters clean to picking up litter and all sorts of other activities.

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