We’ve just released our 2021 report after speaking with 267 voters in Hume and its LGAs.
Hume is a federal electorate directly south west of Sydney and north of Canberra, covering much of the area between these two major centres. This rural seat covers the towns of Goulburn, Camden, Bargo, Tahmoor and Picton, as well as Gunning, Crookwell and Boorowa to the north and west of Goulburn.
Sixty years ago, 1 in 10 Australians were a member of a political party, or 10%. Today, that number has fallen to just 1 in 120. That’s less than 1%. The book “Rusted Off: Why Country Australia is Fed Up”, documents that many voters in rural seats across Australia feel that the major political parties, who were once baked into the fabric of society, have long since become detached from rural communities, instead shifting their focus to catering to wealthy political donors (Chan, 2018).
The 3 major political parties (ALP, LNP and the Nationals) have become increasingly beholden to industries such as mining and resources, banking and pharmaceuticals, because of the contributions of wealth they provide which enable them to finance their own re-election campaigns.
This revolving door of political donations and corporate lobbying has been thoroughly documented by former editor of The Australian and investigative journalist, Michael West, who has uncovered how donations to the two major Australian political parties tripled between the 2016 and 2019 federal elections (West).
Australia is on a track similar to the USA, where their democracy has become infiltrated by the influence of corporate lobby groups to the extent that public opinion has virtually no effect on which legislation is passed (Jacob Kornbluth, 2017).
This is clearly an erosion of democracy and a path that Australia finds itself heading down, unless we can find a way to elect representatives who are willingly answerable to the communities they are elected to represent.
Reclaiming Australian Democracy using Grassroots Organisations
Among the noise of the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections, it was easy to miss a quiet revolution emerging from within two electorates in the Australian federal parliament.
The seats of Indi in Victoria and Warringah in North Sydney produced upset victories for independent candidates Cathy McGowan (Indi, 2013 and 2016), Helen Haines (Indi, 2019) and Zali Steggall (Warringah, 2019).
These independent candidates were each backed by separate, grassroots movements that sought to organise volunteers and donors en masse, prior to their respective successful campaigns.
In seeking to replicate this success, 5 residents from the Hume electorate and its encompassing LGAs set out to emulate models used by previous independent groups to help get more community minded candidates elected at the local, state and federal levels of government.
It was established in March 2020 that the key to the success of these independents was to go directly to voters to find out what they want to see changed or preserved in their community, their state and the country.
The stage was set for a year-long campaign of interviews and round-table discussions, known as Kitchen Table Conversations, conducted by volunteer facilitators. The Voices of Hume project was born.
Kitchen Table Conversations (KTCs)
The Kitchen Table Conversation model of community consultation was borrowed from Voices of Warringah and Voices 4 Indi.
KTC’s are a way to bring people together in a safe environment to discuss opinions on issues that matter to each voter.
Anyone can participate. Hosts and facilitators invite groups of 2-8 participants, including friends, neighbours, family, workmates or people known from community networks to their house, or to a local café where the KTC is held over a cup of coffee.
During the course of the 2020-2021 KTCs, sessions were held in Goulburn, Camden, Mittagong, Thirlmere, Bundanoon, Gunning and Crookwell. The number of respondents was 267.
The following questions were discussed:
• What are the main issues in your community / electorate?
• What makes a good political representative?
• What are the best things about where you live?
• What makes a strong community?
Over the course of the year in which KTCs were held, 13 individuals acted as facilitators and note takers, recording the thoughts and opinions of the participants.
Voices of Hume Goals
Voices of Hume aims to understand how the residents of Hume and its encompassing LGAs can be better represented at the federal, state and local levels. We aim to support independent candidates who are looking to run in future elections and who represent the needs of their electorate.
We share a common goal of strengthening the relationship between community and policy-makers.
There is a feeling that we need to reset the relationship between our politicians and the people and to create a new standard for politics in Australia.
In addition to the vast survey data collected through the consultation process, Voices of Hume has amassed a following in the Hume electorate, encompassing the LGAs of Camden, Wollondilly, Wingecarribee, Goulburn-Mulwaree and Upper Lachlan shires.
We are calling for candidates who feel that they represent the values outlined in this report to make contact with us.
Voices of Hume will seek to assist viable candidates in running at local, state and federal elections, with all of the resources we have available.
“Democracy is about voters, not big donors”
Voices of Hume is not a partisan group. We oppose corruption on ALL sides of the aisle.
We encourage and enable independent and party-aligned candidates who act in good faith on behalf of their community.