#NSWElections2019: DURGA OWEN of the ALP, Candidate for Seven Hills

“Representation in parliament should mirror our society with more women and people of diverse cultures represented”

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What convinced you to join the party of your choice?

The Labor Party is the only party dedicated to protecting our local communities, committed to a universal health system and improving our local schools and guaranteeing TAFE funding into the future. We have already announced policies to address the urgent need for more affordable housing, such as ending no-fault evictions and mandating a minimum amount of affordable housing in any new housing development, as well as fairer working conditions including for casual and gig economy workers.

What strategy did you use to campaign for votes in the election?

I want to take every opportunity to listen to the concerns of the electorate and give people the opportunity speak to me. For nearly a year now, I have been at train stations, shopping centres and community events, doorknocking thousands of homes and listening to the concerns, and pledging to fight for the needs of the electorate. I have made myself available via a direct phone, email and social media also.

What are the three main changes you wish to make if you are to be elected?

At the heart of success for a member of parliament is putting the community’s interests first. This means protecting our public health system from cuts, building world class schools for our children, and making our community more liveable by protecting open spaces and heritage. This includes making sure our most vulnerable are not left behind, including the homeless, mentally ill, and those doing it tough with the increased cost of living, such as pensioners and young families.

These should be any Government’s priorities, but the NSW Liberal Government has instead prioritised expensive stadium vanity projects, overseen the large-scale sale of publicly owned revenue-generating assets, while schools are an afterthought and trains and roads are increasingly clogged and unable to cope with the rapid pace of overdevelopment. To top it off, we get to now pay for the M4 toll again – a toll on a road that has already been paid for by the public. Obviously Labor opposes this and if elected has pledged to bring back the M4 toll cashback.

Tell us a bit about your background?

My family is from Jaffna Sri Lanka. We speak Tamil at home. My mother’s grandparents originate from India. My father’s family are Tamils from the North of Sri Lanka going back hundreds of years. I have lived in Western Sydney for 25 years and was fortunate to attend Arthur Phillip High School, become the School Captain and go on to earn several degrees in Law and Social Science and Politics at University. I have practiced as a Solicitor and now I lecture in law at Western Sydney University. My husband Michael and I live in the electorate and raise our three sons who attend public schools.

A strong education system is the great leveller; a chance for every child to succeed, no matter what school they go to. Our public education system has opened many doors for me, and I am passionate about making sure everyone gets this opportunity. That is what makes our community a better place.

I have been community advocate since my school days and have continued to work to preserve our green spaces, heritage sites, youth and disability access and community services. Being awarded Parramatta Young Citizen of the Year in 2002 and the Australian Centenary medal for Services to the Parramatta community have further allowed me to work with our local organisations to ensure our community interests are prioritised.

What do you think are the pressing needs of the Indian Australian community?

The next state election represents a chance to decide what type of community we want to live in. We need better health services; a world class education, both at our local schools and through TAFE and University; a fair go for small businesses to thrive and grow, a public transport system that delivers, hospitals with nurse-to-patient ratios offering the highest standard of care, and open spaces for our children to grow.

Who are you inspired by?

Parents in our community, just like my own, who work tirelessly for the future for their children through better education and opportunities inspire me to work harder towards policies to make their lives easier, as it is through them that we have built a strong Australia. In the heart of it all, I want my work to be led by the values of fairness, equality and social justice.

There is a lot of disillusionment with politics and politicians in current times – what needs to be done to change that public perception?

Representation in parliament should also mirror our society with more women and people of diverse cultures represented and I am proud that the Labor Party is leading the way in this aspect. As the decisions made in Parliament have a huge impact on our daily lives, we need more consultation of the community by members of parliament to truly be in touch with the community’s needs. Building trust through collaborative and community-centered policy making is what will rebuild trust in our politicians and guarantee accountability.