#NSWElections2019: CHARISHMA KALIYANDA of the ALP, Candidate for Holsworthy

“I admire the ability of people like Barack Obama and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to communicate complex information in an engaging way.”

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What convinced you to join the party of your choice?
One of the things that my parents always reinforced for me and my brother as we were growing up is the value and importance of education. I believe that access to high-quality education and training is fundamental to having opportunities to progress and pursue what is meaningful to you in life, regardless of your circumstances. Furthermore, when I was 19 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and have therefore experienced the need to have a well-resourced, accessible and proactive public health care system. The only political party that has consistently pursued and delivered on these areas is the Labor Party, which has only reinforced why I joined so many years ago.

What strategy did you use to campaign for votes in the election?
My key strategy is pretty simple – to speak to, meet with and interact with as many people within Holsworthy as possible. This has involved knocking on doors, meeting people at railway stations and street stalls, directly phoning residents and more doorknocking. The only way to defeat an incumbent is to work
harder than the incumbent and that is what I have done since I was preselected over 18 months ago. I have also been listening to my community, something the incumbent has not done.
What are the three main changes you wish to make if you are to be elected?
The number one focus for me is to be a more effective local member and representative for my community. A lot of residents talk to me about not feeling like the challenges they face on a daily basis are being addressed, and that’s why I’d like to be more proactive in engaging with the people of Holsworthy and being an effective advocate for them. I’m also very passionate about ensuring we have a more effective mental health system as, currently, my day job is in the youth mental health space. The other issue that people keep raising with me that is very important to address, is making sure we are properly planning and delivering infrastructure and services in our growing areas, like Holsworthy.

Tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in Bangalore and migrated to Sydney with my parents and younger brother when I was 4, in the early ‘90s. I have always lived in south-west Sydney – I went to school here and I work here. I’m a registered occupational therapist and have worked with a wide range of different people. As I mentioned, I currently work for a youth mental health organisation called headspace in the Campbelltown centre. I’m also currently a councillor on Liverpool City Council.
What do you think are the pressing needs of the Indian Australian community?
I think that despite the fact that the Indian community is much larger and more visible than, for example, when my family first migrated here, we still have a long way to go when it comes to being part of the mainstream. Although Indian festivals, events, food and culture are more recognised, we need to see more Indian faces represented when it comes to media, sport and, of course, politics.

Who are you inspired by?
Different people inspire me for different reasons. For example, I really admire the vision of Aneurin Bevan, the post-WW2 British Health Minister who was the architect and champion of the National Health Service (NHS). I also admire the ability of people like Barack Obama and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to communicate complex information in an engaging way. Having grown up in a cricket mad family, I must also mention really looking up to Rahul Dravid’s patience and humility.

There is a lot of disillusionment with politics and politicians in current times – what needs to be done to change that public perception?
I think we need to acknowledge that democracy is a two-way street. I sometimes hear people say that “both parties are the same” or “all politicians are the same”, and I have to say that, with all due respect, that’s just not the case. At the upcoming state election, there is a fundamental choice being presented to the people of NSW: do you want your government to spend
$2.2 bil on demolishing and rebuilding two stadiums, or do you want your government to invest in the things that will make a meaningful difference to the lives of you and your family: more nurses and health professionals to reduce hospital waiting times, air conditioning all school classrooms so that children can learn and fulfil their potential, returning the community to the heart of the planning system and having a plan to tackle energy prices and climate change. Politicians need to do and be better at ensuring that people feel, and are, heard properly.

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