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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 3 December 2020) . . Page.. 172 ..

with and for property investors for more than a decade, and I genuinely understand and empathise with people finding ways to secure their economic future and the economic future of their families. The housing crisis is not one fixed through shaming and guilting people who have used the policy of subsequent governments to negatively gear and improve their personal economic position. This is actually about governments taking leadership to remove systemic advantage and treat housing as a fundamental human right.

I am a loud guy. I am a “heart on his sleeve” kind of guy. I probably got that from my dad. I am a guy with a big personality. That may lead many to be confident that they already know me, but there is a lot that many would not know about me. I am someone who grew up in public housing, and I struggled with my education in my primary years. I was one of those kids that we often talk about in education policy who falls between the cracks. I am a person who helped to raise their siblings, and I provided care to someone close to me who struggled with drug dependency. I am someone who, in my lifetime, has found myself homeless, and I know what it feels like to have experienced sexual assault. There is a lot more to me, and indeed to any one of us, than we often give each other credit for. I am the sum of my diverse experiences, and those experiences inform my values.

The prominent Greek statesman Pericles once said:

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.

In 2006 politics took an interest in me. I was a student at the former Kambah High School when the then Stanhope Labor majority government proposed the closure of 39 ACT public schools, including Kambah high. From that position, and from that young age, it became almost impossible for me to ever see the Labor Party as a party motivated by the same values as me. I could not fathom how a political party that my parents had loyally voted for, a party I was raised to believe was the champion of the working class and of public institutions, could make such a bad decision that so disproportionately affected people who needed their support.

You may ask yourself why a 15-year-old would care so deeply that his school stayed open. Surely, most 15-year-olds cannot wait to get out of school. For me, my school community was the first place that I ever felt truly safe, truly seen, and truly supported and celebrated for my full humanity. The idea that that could be taken away from me was deeply personal.

Throughout the course of the school closures campaign, I learnt of all the ways such a terrible policy impacted so many young people and their families. This experience brought to life for me the feminist saying, “The personal is political.” To this day it has inspired me, and it will inspire my work to be this Assembly’s strongest and most passionate advocate for an accessible, equitable and secular public education system. I will be a voice for every public school student, every public school educator and every parent who makes the choice to send their child to a great ACT public school. My vision is for a public school system that is the envy of the world and the choice of every Canberra family.

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