By Ingrid Jacobson
FROM Two Rocks and Yanchep, inland to Balcatta and sweeping south to Cottesloe, the electorate that Greens candidate Alison Xamon hopes to win covers diverse ground.
It also cuts through a big swathe of territory for the social justice advocate, renowned for her work in mental health and suicide prevention, and a lawyer by profession.
But the Upper House candidate has her sight set on the North Metropolitan seat in next month’s State Election and is confident she can take it in her stride.
Considering her past – she was an East Metropolitan MLC for five years while running 17 portfolios – she has a good chance of keeping pace.
And given she made the most of her previous time in parliament, introducing six private members bills and in her own words “multiple motions of notice only rivalled by Colin Barnett”, her form is looking firm.
To get there, she will have to take on Pauline Hanson’s One Nation which is running candidates in each Upper House region and is, according to the Greens, ahead in the polls.
However, judging by her stance today at the Greens WA state election campaign launch, her stride will be strong despite her amused admission that while she’s big on her beliefs, she’s quite small in stature and stands “just under 5 foot”.
During the launch, she revealed that Greens WA’s plan to clean up politics through its ‘Not For Sale’ policy would begin with a ban on corporate donations to political parties and real time declaration of donations of more than $1000.
She said the party would also introduce legislation to limit lobbyists’ influence, protect whistleblowers and strengthen Freedom of Information provisions.
“Western Australian voters deserve to know who was greasing the hands of politicians, who in turn stood up as a mouthpiece to those corporations,” she said.
“The distribution of power is weighted heavily in favour of the government and by claiming something is cabinet or commercial in confidence keeps voters and taxpayers in the dark.”
The 48-year-old is the daughter of a pastor and teacher, who was raised in the hills of Mundaring and then in Belmont, Gosnells and Forrestfield.
Although of modest means, her parents instilled in her the values of education and social justice.
“I have always been an advocate for transparency of government and social justice,” she said on Friday during an interview with Yanchep News Online.
“I also embrace a multicultural Australia and now, more than ever we need to make sure we have voices in government who speak out with compassion and against racism.
“When I was deciding whether to put my hand up for pre-selection, I realised I still had so much I wanted to do but had not had the opportunity last time around.
“I’ve got unfinished business and apart from that, we need Greens voices in parliament, especially with the rise of One Nation.
”The best way to stop One Nation is to vote Greens.”
Her last statement was why the party yesterday released its own polling results, an unusual move, considering One Nation is being predicted to get more primary votes.
But the poll, which revealed that 33 per cent of Liberal voters were less likely to vote for their party if they did a preference deal with One Nation was fired more as a warning shot to the current government.
For the Greens, environmental issues are obviously at the fore, such as concerns voiced yesterday on “both Labor and Liberal having no plan to boost the renewable energy sector in WA”.
Recently the party also called for an independently-funded regional fire service, a key recommendation of the Ferguson Inquiry following the Waroona fire last year.
For Alison Xamon, these issues run parallel to the challenges of mental health, suicide and the spread of the street drug, ice, which she describes as “evil”.
Given her own background of a family set in turmoil following the suicide of her father, Reverend Alan Miller, when she was 11-years-old, it comes as no surprise how close she holds these issues to her heart.
And she’s totally upfront about the tragedy which “is no secret” and that she says has defined the direction of her life.
“It’s important for issues such as suicide to be faced, rather than swept under the carpet like they were in the days when my dad died,” she said.
“I can remember how there was this feeling of shame in our family which was how society looked at things like that back then.
“Now it is recognised that if the victim and their family, especially children don’t get help in situations like this, they are deeply at risk of mental illness and more likely to take their own life.”
Honest to a fault, she admits that her father’s suicide led her onto a path of “significant trauma”, but was also later responsible for lifting her spirits when she discovered her passion for advocacy.
At Murdoch University she studied law and arts, also serving as Education vice president and Guild president.
She then worked for unions such as the Australian Nurses Federation, State School Teachers Union of WA, and the Communications, Electricians and Plumbers Union.
After her first stint in parliament she was elected president of the WA Association for Mental Health, the vice chair of Community Health Australia, and to the board of Mental Health Australia.
Later she was appointed to the WA Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention, and was the inaugural Co-Lead of the Department of Health Statewide Mental Health Network, while continuing to work as a lawyer.
She now has a happy family, her 21-year-old daughter from her first marriage having been bought up with her husband Luke of 19 years and with whom she has two boys, aged 13 and 11.
The once traumatised child is so pleased that her children have been able to grow up with more opportunities than she had.
One of her most fulfilling public achievements, after years of advocacy, is now Australia’s first service providing long term support for youngsters bereaved by suicide funded by the State Government via Anglicare.
“The government and mental health services should be commended on this but unfortunately these services are already over-subscribed,” she said.
Ms Xamon strongly disagrees with mandatory sentencing for drug users, many whom she believes could become productive members of society.
“I’ve worked so long in mental health and you literally see drugs such as ice destroying families, lives, overcrowding prisons and hurting everyone,” she said.
“We all know that the current bidding war of policies between the major parties over this issue is to be tough on crime.
“But it’s not solving the problem.
“I’m for dealers going to jail and the Greens are calling for stronger penalties for large scale drug traffickers.
“But if people are caught with drugs that are clearly for personal use, we should be using all our energy to help them access services.”
Sadly, she says, there are not enough rehabilitation programs, and she is determined to keep pushing for increased funds for rehabilitation facilities rather than prisons.
“People who hit rock bottom often end up with child protection involved and they say ‘Oh my God, my kids are being taken away, I have to get this under control’,” she said.
“Finally, they try to get themselves into rehab only to be told there is a six to nine month wait.
“Many then go back to using, when instead we should be grabbing them while they have the motivation, and helping them turn their lives around.
“What is happening now is creating intergenerational trauma – people are angry that they are not safe on the streets and they have the right to be so.
“Imagine if instead we were investing money in providing a rehab bed immediately rather than making addicts wait and probably go back on the drug and in the process their kids will be stuck in very expensive child protection.
“It makes sense to everyone – the addicts, their children, the victims of crime, our society – we all need to be more compassionate.”