Dominic WY Kanak likes to think of himself as an ‘accidental politician.’
After making a career as a native title consultant in the 1990s, he became dispirited when the Howard Government removed some of the right to negotiate clauses in the Native Title Act (1993).
This prompted Mr Kanak to consider running against Howard in a federal election.
“[I] was on the dole, I couldn’t afford the Australian Electoral Commission nomination fee,” Mr Kanak said.
Other parties wouldn’t support him, so Mr Kanak chose to back other candidates instead.
It was through this process that he came into contact with Greens’ supporters.
Fast forward to 2019 and Mr Kanak has been on the Waverley Council in Sydney for 20 years and ran in last year’s Wentworth by-election as the Greens candidate.
“My political track has been one of accident and opportunity,” Mr Kanak said.
Currently serving as Waverley Council’s Deputy Mayor, Mr Kanak has been approached by the Greens again to run for Wentworth in the 2019 election.
A greener Wentworth
The candidate for Wentworth believes in the Greens’ notion of ‘cleaning up politics’ and is hoping for a greener economy in the future.
“Our platform policies for Wentworth are about caring for country and caring for our community by caring about climate,” Mr Kanak said.
He said all the Greens’ policies are related to this election being the ‘climate crisis’ election.
“We want to completely turn politics around,” Mr Kanak said.
The Greens are looking to create 180,000 new green economy jobs to transition those currently in coal and mining jobs.
The Party plans to overhaul ‘dead-end’ industries like coal and mining and switch to a more environmentally friendly, yet profitable economy.
Connecting policy with tradition
“I find that some of the base policies of the Greens are very much what traditional First Nations thinking is, so there’s a natural link between looking to the future and looking after country and looking after people. That’s a part of fundamental Greens policy,” Mr Kanak said.
With heritage both in Yuwibara country and the Torres Strait, Mr Kanak attributes this close connection between policy and traditional knowledge to why he has stayed with the Greens for so long.
The Wentworth candidate said First Nations communities have been taking action on environmental issues such as the Adani coal mine and Norwegian oil company Equinor proposing to drill in the Great Australian Bight.
Mr Kanak said he has seen Traditional Owners taking action both in community and up to the High Court to prevent the damages such projects might have to country.
“A lot of environmental campaigns have occurred in our community and most times they have a strong link to First Nations peoples fighting for their country,” Mr Kanak said.
The candidate for Wentworth said First Nations people should have the sovereign right to say they don’t want someone to drill, frack or mine on country.
Spreading a Green agenda
Mr Kanak said the Greens’ environmental policy is consistent as it has been developed over a long period of time.
“It is good to see now the major parties and Independent candidates spruiking what is fundamental Greens policy,” Mr Kanak said.
“The Greens, even though they have not reached [a majority] in government, the policy impact they have shifts the policies of the major parties and other parties. And it shifts it to where it’s more environmentally conscious and socially just.”
While the Greens have dedicated policy to Indigenous Protected Areas and ranger jobs, Mr Kanak said the Party is also looking at funding for remote communities and reversing previous government policies that have moved Indigenous Australians off country.
“The Greens have been strong on finding a pathway for Treaties and making sure that there is recognition of unseeded sovereignty at the level where federal is coordinating with state and local Greens policy,” Mr Kanak said.
The candidate said recognising unseeded sovereignty and co-management strategies for country are important issues for policy.
Limits to community outreach
Although the Greens plan to invest half a billion dollars into community outreach programs for suicide prevention, there are no specifics for the money Indigenous suicide prevention might receive.
Mr Kanak admitted this is an area he needs to find out more about, however he said we need to get to the root causes of why people feeling in such hopeless positions see only one permanent solution.
“If part of the community outreach program is going to look at getting to those base ideas, and to prevent people from getting to that position as much as possible, then I think that kind of community outreach funding is well-spent,” Mr Kanak said.
Voting for the future
The Wentworth candidate’s biggest wish is for Australians to vote for the future.
“More than electing me they should be electing a party and a representative that has future vision and policies that future proof that vision,” Mr Kanak said.
A selfless gesture, Mr Kanak hopes voters take whatever view they have and place it alongside the fact that this is a climate action election.
“[They need to] cast their vote for the future, and it has to be a future for all of us.”
By Hannah Cross