LISTEN, engage, represent.
That is what Cathy McGowan has pledged to Indi in her maiden speech to parliament.
The public gallery in the house of representatives was a sea of orange, some 250 volunteers from Benalla, Wangaratta and Wodonga filling more than half the seats.
They rose to their feet, cheering and applauding, as Ms McGowan concluded her speech in which she spoke of her family history, the grassroots campaign that saw her elected, and her vision for Indi’s future.
She vowed to listen to the community’s needs, open the doors to her Canberra office, and apologise to the Aboriginal groups in Indi for their past mistreatment at the hands of past governments.
Among those attending to listen were her fellow crossbench MPs – Clive Palmer, Andrew Wilkie, Adam Bandt and Bob Katter – Opposition leader and deputy Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek, and backbenchers from the government and opposition.
They gathered around Ms McGowan once she finished her speech – which just exceeded the 20-minute time limit – passing their congratulations.
Speaking outside of the house, Ms McGowan said it was “a wonderful experience”.
“It’s the most fantastic thing to say things about the community and have that community here to demonstrate it,” she said.
“I’ve had many congratulations from people looking forward to me participating in the debate in parliament and asking questions now.”
Ms McGowan said she hadn’t expected the positive reaction from her colleagues but that it was “indicative of the whole movement” in Indi.
“People have been watching what Indi has done and are really keen to talk about it and learn how we did it,” she said.
“And we’re happy to share the love.”