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Labor candidate CHRIS GAMBIAN on the issues affecting the people of Banks this election
Getting involved in politics
My mum moved to Australia in 1974, and my dad moved here in 1975. With them growing up in India, straight after independence, India was a very aware, political country. It was hard not to be conscious of the big gap between the rich and poor, and with my parents being Catholic, they were very conscious of the world around them and had a definite orientation toward social justice. I was brought up in that kind of environment. In high school, as I was growing aware of the world around me, I joined a party following that ethos. I was 15 when I joined the Labor Party.
The thing I enjoy most about politics is…
The people. It is a real privilege to talk and listen to people; they are lending you their confidence. Recently I was at a community event speaking with a carer in her late sixties about her two mentally ill sons. She worries about their future and what’s going to happen to them. I spent 30 minutes listening to her experience. It is a real privilege to have someone feel they can talk to you and have that human connection. I have always felt strongly about working with people to make the world a better place.
Three key issues facing the people of Banks
Affordable housing is the thing the people immediately want to talk about. Around the area, these are not fancy homes, they’re modest houses. We’re not talking about those houses that cost $2 or $3 million, but affordable housing for young people is off the cards. Then older people are faced with their kids having to move away, to a different suburb or even a different city, to be able to afford a house.
Medicare and the changes to the healthcare framework is another big issue, especially among the older people.
And education in all forms – school education with needs-based funding, also TAFE and uni fees. Migrant families especially value education and don’t want to see schooling and higher education become priced out of their children’s reach.
Campaigning for the future
We have a big online presence in this election. Obviously everyone is on social media, but we’re making a bigger effort than most. Increasingly these mediums are not just about influencing young people. With our Facebook page and videos, we’ve been reaching a much larger, wider audience. Then with all the usual strategies of doorknocking and community events, these are opportunities not just to get my name out there, but also to engage with and talk to people; to build a two-way relationship and conversation, to connect with people and find out what’s on their minds.
The economy and employment
This budget is a mistake. Most people in my electorate will get no tax cuts, most people are not getting anything. It’s not that tax cuts should be a priority, but we should be focusing on keeping services like Medicare and education strong. The starting point for employment opportunities is education – school, then TAFE and university. The economy is made stronger by making goods and services in Australia to sell overseas, and investing in the region. It is tough for young people at the moment. They are ready to work hard, but are getting knocked back. It’s about equipping them with the skills for the long term.
When mum and dad moved here, there were no other brown families in Mortdale. Obviously, Australia and these suburbs have changed a lot.
I have never felt direct racism towards me, but I have felt a times that I was culturally different. I never felt left out growing up, but feeling ‘different’ has textured my experiences and my life. If you’re visibly not looking the same as other people around you, that colours your view of the world.
Politics can be brutal sometimes, even on your own side. My background has never been a negative in my political career, but it has definitely impacted my world views. I am mindful of my family, and other migrant families, and their priorities.
Obviously the issues affecting the community are those that affect everybody – education, healthcare, childcare. But I think we could be doing a better job of communicating between cultural groups.
The diversity of Australia gets a lot of rhetorical attention, but I hate the term ‘tolerance’. We need to move beyond that to say diversity is our strength and we need to make Australia even better and teach each other about our different strengths in business, family and community organisations. Sometimes language barriers get in the way. A local organisation like RAIN [Resourceful Australian Indian Network] is a great example of what members of the community can do to look after each other. Why should something like that only be an Indian thing? It would be great to share that knowledge and facilitate intercultural exchanges and cross cultural networking. Australia’s cultural diversity should not just be about food festivals! I hope if I’m elected to be a bridge for that, a little step toward that goal.
Getting more people involved in politics
The major parties need to do a better job of reaching out to migrant communities and being less cliquey. People from those communities are welcome, but it’s about making them feel welcome.
There also need to be more role models. If I’m elected, I hope that having a brown face on the floor of the House goes some way toward showing people it’s possible.
Will he win?
The electorate of Banks was held by Labor from its first contest in 1949 until the historical Liberal victory in the 2013 election.
I’m not into the punditry of it all. I am trying to work as hard as I can. My job is to talk to people about their world and understanding where they are coming from. It’s important to be true to yourself and no adjust your beliefs just to get votes and get over the line. I’m never going to stop believing in these ideas. There are a number of people involved in my campaign, from across the community, and I’m proud of what we have achieved.