Susan Moylan-Coombs is worried. Worried and frightened for Australia’s future.
This is what pushed her to run as an Independent for the seat of Warringah.
Running against long-time Liberal seat holder and Special Envoy for Indigenous Affairs Tony Abbott, Ms Moylan-Coombs has an uphill battle ahead to win the seat.
As a Gurindji Woolwonga woman, Ms Moylan-Coombs said her Indigenous heritage informs her political views “completely 100 percent” but she wants people to feel their cultural identities can co-exist with life in a contemporary world.
“There is a perception that everything I do is political. And that was always fascinating for me in the work that I was doing,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
“Even just being Indigenous is seen as political.”
Ms Moylan-Coombs has lived in the electorate of Warringah for over 50 years and for the best part of 25 years, she has been active in the Warringah community.
At first, she didn’t dare entertain the idea of entering Australian politics.
A big deterrent for her was the way politics currently operates in Australia and the effect it would have on her children.
“I didn’t want to be a part of the dirty, dirty politics that goes on in this country,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
The Warringah candidate takes a very critical stance on the behaviour of politicians and the way they engage in the political sphere, particularly prior to elections.
Ms Moylan-Coombs said she never thought she would be good at following the policy of one party, so she avoided entering that space.
“I won’t compromise what I think is for the greater good,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
In May last year, she seriously considered entering the race when someone suggested she run as an Independent. She consulted her family.
“My son said, ‘Well it’s about time, I thought you would’ve done it years ago!’”
On Christmas Eve 2018, Ms Moylan-Coombs officially decided to throw her hat in the ring.
While she has no specific policies per se, Ms Moylan-Coombs said if she is elected, she will advocate and agitate from the crossbench to serve the interests of Warringah residents.
She holds a great awareness of her position and is realistic about the limited power she would have if elected.
“I don’t have a massive machine that sits behind me that spurts out policies,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
“I don’t have the power to enact [specific policies].”
Ms Moylan-Coombs remains hopeful Warringah will elect a member of Parliament that advocates for its people’s best interests.
“I’m someone who is a part of the community and has wanted the greater good for our community,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
“I want to be able to advocate for the concerns of all people in our community.”
Foregrounding the environment
One issue Ms Moylan-Coombs holds close to heart, is the environment.
“The words for me that keep being dropped off [climate change discussions] are ‘the environment’,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
“You can’t separate out what we are doing in relation to climate change, climate emergency and climate action from the environment in which we’re living.”
Ms Moylan-Coombs believes our behaviour as consumers is affecting the environment greatly and wants to view future environmental policy through the lens of the triple bottom line.
“What is the impact on humanity? What is the impact on environment? And then profit after that,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
“We’ve had a system where it’s all been about the money and the profit. And we need to turn that around because that system has got us to this place where we’re in a climate emergency.”
Ms Moylan-Coombs said we need to take much more responsibility for our actions and change the way we behave and live.
She believes Indigenous Australians can help lead the way out of climate disaster if only we would listen to them.
“Our practices were sustainable. Our practices cared for the environment which was our home,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
“We made sure it was a viable environment for us to return to when we were doing our travels through country.”
The Warringah candidate also takes issue with the controversial Adani Carmichael coal mine.
She said we need to protect the environment for future generations before worrying about making a profit.
“We’re signing off on the Adani deal at the eleventh hour, and the huge impacts that that’s going to have on us [environmentally],” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
“We need to make sure that we, the people of Australia, are not being done over by dodgy deals.”
Ms Moylan-Coombs thinks we should take a page out of Bhutan’s book and move away from prioritising money.
“They say: ‘Time is not money, time is life’,” Ms Moylan-Coombs said.
Protecting our youth
Another issue the Warringah candidate cares deeply about is youth mental health.
Ms Moylan-Coombs said youth suicide frightens her, adding that Indigenous youth have the highest rates in the country.
“As a nation, that should be frightening us. We need to look at why young people are choosing to leave the planet.”
She said we need to protect our young people and have a better-skilled workforce to understand Indigenous trauma.
While she believes the funding allocated in this year’s Budget to Indigenous suicide is good, Ms Moylan-Coombs is worried about such promises so close to the election.
“If that comes to fruition, then it’s absolutely needed on the ground.”
“People are looking for community, they’re looking for connection, they’re looking for a sense of belonging.”
Not a nation of happy people, yet
Ms Moylan-Coombs believes the current government is not serving Australian interests first, as a government should.
“There are so many complex needs and social issues for us as Australians that we need to address first and foremost – and we’re not.”
She says politicians need to remember that they are public servants.
“All levels of government need to be better connected to their constituents and have a true understanding of what’s needed.”
“The funding needs to go to the people of Australia and making sure that we are a nation of happy people.”
Ms Moylan-Coombs wants to bring a sense of balance back so that future generations can inherit a better environment and society.
“What I hope is that everybody has the ability to live a happy prosperous life, whatever that means for them.”
The Independent Warringah candidate is arming herself with traditional cultural knowledge as she continues along the campaign trail.
“80,000 years of culture guides me in a way, [to] doing it better.”
By Hannah Cross