Meet a Candidate: Tara Cheyne

7 September 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 community.
This week, meet Tara Cheyne, Labor Candidate for Ginninderra. Tara Cheyne-blog

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in Queensland. I had lived in seven different towns by the time I was 18 so never really had a ‘home town’. It wasn’t until I moved to Belconnen that I felt I’d found my home – somewhere I both loved and felt a real sense of belonging – and my love for it has become a passion. Since moving here, I’ve thrown myself into promoting Canberra and Belconnen with a view to making our home even better.

I’m the author behind the In The Taratory blog (promoting all things Canberra) and I’m a board member of the excellent Belconnen Arts Centre. In 2014-15, I was the president of the Belconnen Community Council – the youngest chair of all ACT community councils and the only woman that year.  For my ‘day job’, I’m a Director in the Commonwealth public service. I live in the Belconnen Town Centre and you can regularly see me out and about with my whippet, Cooper.

What drove you to run for the Legislative Assembly?

As president of the Belconnen Community Council, we’d been achieving a great deal – particularly in terms of getting people interested and participating in local matters – and I was proud of our team and its work. But I also wanted to do more; to have a greater influence in shaping policies that affect us and to bring youth and fresh ideas to the Assembly.

I was also inspired by former MLA Mary Porter AM, who worked incredibly hard to represent our community – championing big policy ideas while maintaining a focus on local government issues. As a community we get the best outcomes when our voice is heard, and I’m ready to be Belconnen’s voice.

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

‘Ginninderra’ is derived from an Aboriginal word that means “sparkling like the stars”. That connotes something pretty special to me – and our electorate is! I think people who don’t live here would be particularly surprised to learn how many beautiful nature reserves we have and how easy it is to immerse yourself: Aranda bushlands, Mt Painter, the Pinnacle behind Weetangera, Mt Rogers, Mt Goodwin, Shepherd’s Lookout and Lake Ginninderra (to name a few). Maintaining and preserving these spaces is important to me.

Like most of Canberra, we have an ageing population and a growing population. Key issues facing us include ensuring we’ve got the right infrastructure in place to support us – from a range of affordable housing options, to high quality transport no matter what method you use – and remaining inclusive and connected, both physically and socially.

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

A key barrier to gender equality is participation. Ensuring women have safe and secure environments is an obvious and critical starting point. While I strongly support (and have benefited from) workplaces which have flexible conditions that allow for participation, I think the Government – including its MLAs – can be a model for exploring different ways of community engagement.  In my BCC work I recognised we needed to move away from once-a-month meetings held on school nights. We built our Facebook profile, live-blogged our meetings and held community forums in the afternoons and on weekends.

I’ve taken the same approach with my candidacy: running surveys that people can fill in in their own time, and visiting homes and holding stalls both during the day and evenings. I want to continue to model these different approaches as an MLA. Finally, I think the ACT Government needs to be a leader in mandating 50 per cent quotas for directors of its boards to be women. 

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

So many of our behaviours are ones we learn growing up, so we need to continue to ensure we invest in our schools – and especially early childhood education – with high quality programs which focus on gender equality. We must also work hard to ensure people are physically and socially connected with affordable housing, services and community events which are inclusive and easy to participate in no matter your background, and a city that’s easy to get around. Finally, I’m proud of the recent $21.4 million in budget funding to tackle domestic violence, but there is more to do and we can’t lose our focus in years to come. Regardless of whether I’m elected as an MLA, I’ll continue to advocate for these areas.

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

I’m passionate about seeing even more ACT services and infrastructure which are inclusive and designed with community needs in mind. For example, how we manage our waste is not exactly a sexy topic, but it’s linked to sustainability and the provision of convenient and sensible services. For a long time I’ve been campaigning for the introduction of a bulky waste pick up service in Canberra. Just a few weeks ago, the service became one of our party’s election commitments – and we’ll be partnering with the charity GIVIT to donate high quality and reusable items. This is a great win for our community on many levels and I’m looking forward to seeing it introduced with a re-elected Labor Government in October. I also know the value of creating, maintaining and preserving our many green spaces for community connection and activity and I’m keen to see what more we can do in this space.

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