I grew up locally in Bonalbo, Coraki and Casino. I had a happy childhood and my parents owned small businesses. They taught me about the values of working hard, helping others when you can and the importance of family.
I left school at 16 at a time when there weren’t a lot of opportunities, but I was able to go to TAFE and it was free. This enabled me to get a traineeship with the local council, which in turn led me to enrol at Southern Cross University in Lismore. While at university I worked several jobs in retail.
Most of my working life has been in the community sector, working with people facing challenges and supporting them to improve their situation. In the 20 years I have done this work, I had expected life to get easier for people, but the opposite is true. It’s become harder for people to keep a roof over their heads, pay the bills and put food on the table. Support services have been reduced and opportunities are fewer.
The reality is the same 16-year-old leaving school today simply wouldn’t have the same opportunities I had when I left school all those years ago. This is what motivated me to get involved in politics: I want to ensure people have access to the same opportunities I was fortunate enough to access.
My life song is perhaps an unusual choice – Bernard Fanning’s Departures. It reminds me of how important it is to make the most of every day and to make a difference in the life of others. It also reminds me of my dad, who is my role model. He was a man of strong values who worked hard for his family and was always kind to others.
In politics, I think we all admire Nelson Mandela. He fought against racism – not just through his words but through his actions and sacrifices, changed the lives of South Africans forever.
The three things I value most in life are my family, my friends, and working hard to improve the lives of those around me and in the wider community.