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I’m Susan Benedyka and I will put you first in politics as your independent voice for Victoria in the Federal Senate.
Regional Australia is, and has always been, my home. I was born in Broken Hill, raised in Wagga, and have lived in beautiful North East Victoria for over twenty years. My personal, professional and political connections extend Australia-wide.
My rural upbringing taught me that if you want to solve problems and bring about change you have to truly listen to communities – and take action – and that’s my commitment to you.
As well as running my own regional development company for over twenty years, my passion for sound leadership led to professional positions in business, on boards, not for profits, advisory committees and community organisations including the Telstra Foundation, Charles Sturt University, La Trobe University, Regional Development Australia, the National Rural Advisory Council, and National Rural Women’s Advisory Group.
As a regional leader, I’ve seen firsthand the negative impact of poor policy, lacklustre leadership, and no shared vision. I know there’s a better way to do politics. I was a founding member of Voices for Indi which led to the election of independents Cathy McGowan and Dr. Helen Haines and has since inspired grassroots political movements right across the country. Now I’m bringing that style of representation to the Senate.
Standing as an independent for the Senate will be a challenge, and for me, it’s important I’m not beholden to existing party ideals. When I make decisions on your behalf in parliament it will be in the best interests of my electorate – Victoria – and to create lasting change beyond my time in politics.
For this election, I am running with an extraordinary colleague Christine Richards.
Enjoying three successful careers in law, media and government in cities across the globe, Christine Richards describes her career as full of adventure.
After graduating with law and arts degrees from Melbourne University, Christine enjoyed a 13-year legal career trying to make law more responsive to people than profit. Starting as a solicitor, she quickly became an advocate for law reform and was appointed as a Law Reform Commissioner in both Victoria and Queensland. She left law in 1995 to begin a media career that took her round the world.
Christine’s broadcasting work started in Sydney at ABC 4 Corners on a short- term contract, after which she was offered the opportunity to produce radio and TV across the ABC network. She reported from four capital cities in addition to rural and remote parts of Australia. She then became Australasian editor of New Internationalist magazine (whose head office is in Oxford, England), where her articles shone a spot-light on people muzzled by their governments in Sri Lanka, West Papua, China and Papua New Guinea. Her radio work both inside and outside the ABC has won two awards.
After working around Australia and internationally, Christine returned to her birthplace — Frankston — in 2008 to run our family’s business and to give love and care to her mother and friend, Dulcie, in the final years of her life. Her local government career began as a councillor in November 2008, standing in a Frankston Ward against the-then Mayor. She was elected first past-the-post. Within a year she was elected Mayor. Within three years she was elected on to the Board of one of Victoria’s peak local government organisations. During her four year term as a Councillor, she was particularly vocal on residents’ issues, better population planning, and increased economic development and jobs for her community.
Christine now lives in Frankston with her partner Ric Lappas where she manages her family’s business interests and helps lead change for the lasting economic and social benefits of her region. Working outside Council, she has chaired the Frankston Community Coalition, whose advocacy in 2014 helped secure $50 million from the State Government for the rejuvenation of the Frankston Station. In 2016 and 2017, she chaired the committee to establish the Committee for Greater Frankston — an advocacy organisation that in its first two years secured a commitment from the Federal Labor and Liberal parties to fund $225 million to extend the Frankston train line into that region’s fast-growing surrounding suburbs. She is presently working with community organisations to establish meaningful citizens participation in the government of her region.
Why the senate
I remember sitting in the well-worn, red leather seats of the Senate chamber in Old Parliament House back in 1998 as a participant in the Australian Rural Leadership Program. During the program we had spent a full day with the Parliamentary Education Office learning about the work of the Senate. My eyes lit up! There was so much about the Senate’s role and approach that resonated with me.
It is collaborative
Senators from all sides of politics including independents work together to shape and test legislation.
It is inclusive
Its committees and enquiries allow everyday people to share their experiences and experts to share their knowledge.
It has oversight
Senators can question Ministers, public servants and key witnesses about how decisions were made and how legislation is proceeding.
It is a House of Review
It holds both houses of parliament to account.
Since that day I’ve been asked many times if I would consider running for politics at a local, state and federal level. I always knew that if the time came I would only consider running in the Senate.
And now that time has come.
I’ve become increasingly fed up with the standard of politics in this country. There is no meaningful debate, it’s all about winning rather than leading and that needs to change.
As Hillel the Elder asked “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”
For the last three federal elections I’ve been active in the Voices for Indi campaigns and have seen how effectively community conversations can help us shape the future we want. I’m ready to take that approach Victoria-wide.
I have always believed we have to be the change we want to see, to quote Gandhi.
I’ve dedicated my career to helping people achieve great things in their personal and professional lives, and I believe individuals can make a difference.
I want to work with Victorians to prove that a better way of politics is possible – one that is based on respect, honesty, integrity and a willingness to work across parliament to create a better Australia for future generations.
Like many Australians, I’m despairing at the current state of politics. Partisan politics is creating division and inaction on critical decisions that affect our future. This includes:
Lack of definitive climate action
Government is lagging behind the private sector and the community, who overwhelmingly want action and are taking action.
Lack of transparency and accountability
For government decisions, like car park rorts, sports rorts, huge sums of government funding going to companies without a tender process, and high profile jobs for mates.
No consequences for failure to act on promises
The Morrison government has so far failed to deliver on its promise of an independent integrity commission and has only partially adopted the recommendations made in the Respect@Work report into workplace sexual harassment.
It’s time to do things differently.
As a founding member of Voices for Indi I’ve seen what’s possible when you create a respectful, open place to talk with communities about their future. My work and volunteer roles have taught me that, to get things done, you must be able to work with people who hold a wide range of opinions. You must operate on good terms and build productive relationships to achieve good outcomes. That’s the approach I will take with me into the Senate.
The role of an Independent politician is to work with and for their communities – their electorate. In the Senate, the electorate is a state or territory – in my case Victoria.
Independents listen to the voices of their communities. They involve and engage people so together they can help shape their future.
Now, more than ever, our decision-making needs to be based on genuine engagement and a better way of doing politics.
As an Independent, I value respect, connection, authenticity, inclusion, transparency, and accountability. I will follow the needs of Victoria and the nation – not a party line.
I am running as an Independent candidate, but getting elected requires a team effort!
Be part of the movement for change. Get involved, get your friends involved. Take action – in your own location or across the state.
Your donation will help my campaign reach more people in every part of Victoria so that I can better represent you and the issues that matter to your community.