Australia: Wikinews interviews Rebecca Jennings, independent candidate for Daly by-election

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Friday, September 10, 2021

The electoral division of Daly within the Northern Territory, highlighted in green.
Image: User:Canley.

In the Northern Territory of Australia (NT), voters in the electoral division of Daly are scheduled to vote for a new Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) tomorrow. The previous Member, Ian Sloan of the Country Liberal Party (CLP), resigned in August. Daly covers communities near Darwin, as well as more remote places such as Timber Creek and Wadeye.

Via email, Wikinews interviewed Rebecca Jennings, who is standing in the Daly by-election as an independent candidate. Jennings previously contested the 2020 Northern Territory general election as a candidate for the Territory Alliance party. She ran in the Fannie Bay, and received 242 votes (5.6% of the vote).


((WN)) Why do you want to represent Daly?

((Rebecca Jennings)) I am a born and raised Territorian who grew up in Darwin's rural area, attending the local schools, and I’ve represented and been actively involved in the community through sport, youth advocacy and local issues for many years. I have been very lucky to work right across the entire Daly region, from Timber Creek through to Wagait Beach and everything in between. We need a stronger and independent regional voice, someone who is willing to speak up, isn't afraid of challenging the status quo and someone who has lived and breathed the Daly region. I believe I can provide a strong and informed local voice for Daly.

((WN)) Daly covers a mix of more urban suburbs on Darwin's outskirts and more rural and remote communities such as Timber Creek and Wadeye. How would you, as the MP for Daly, balance these interests?

((Rebecca Jennings)) The Daly is a mix of rural, regional and remote areas, as well as small towns scattered throughout as service areas. All are unique and need adequate attention; we have seen many regions neglected in the past and during campaigning many constituents have stated that previous members were never present in their communities and contacting them was extremely difficult. Being present, knowing your constituents and being readily available in a multitude of ways, be it print, phone, social media or regular forums, will give you the upper hand to make informed decisions about what to prioritise to ensure no community goes without.

((WN)) Have you ever run for an election before?

Fannie Bay in 2008.
Image: User:Bidgee.

((Rebecca Jennings)) I have – I ran with Territory Alliance in 2020 for the seat of Fannie Bay as I lived in Darwin at the time and was deeply disgruntled with a few things in the local area. It was an excellent opportunity to dip my feet into politics in the NT and the team were so supportive I couldn't fault them.

((WN)) At the moment, in New South Wales, we are seeing a COVID-19 outbreak in the remote town of Wilcannia, which is majority Indigenous. What are your thoughts on how the vaccine rollout is progressing in regards to Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory?

((Rebecca Jennings)) The vaccine rollout has been slow in part due to the remoteness of our communities and people not wanting to have the COVID vaccine; which I agree that people should have the full autonomy to choose what happens to their bodies, but if you are at risk or want to protect your family and community, it would be good to see the vaccine uptake increase. It's unfortunate that Wilcannia has experienced these problems, but overcrowding and the general disadvantage in healthcare we see in Aboriginal communities across Australia makes any community susceptible to an outbreak.

((WN)) What experience have you had within your community that qualify you to be an MP?

((Rebecca Jennings)) I've worked across government agencies, not for profit organisations and the private sector, including event management and hospitality. I have also represented on numerous community committees, including local sporting committees, youth committees and women advisory committees in the NT. Understanding a variety of industries, government processes, legislation and community-driven projects I believe is necessary for standing as a MP (or MLA in the NT). In addition to the professional qualities, someone who has lived, worked and understands the region is more suitable to stand as a spokesperson for their community; someone with local knowledge and real passion to drive progress in a sustainable way.

((WN)) How have you been running your campaign as an independent?

((Rebecca Jennings)) My messaging has been concise, local and achievable making it easy to get my voice across via social media (Facebook and Instagram) as well as local radio and podcasts. Social media has been the best tool in this day, but face-to-face stalls at markets and local shops are always received well by the community and gives people the opportunity to discuss things with you. If there were more lead-up time prior to the election it would have been ideal to do online Q&As to allow people from the remote areas (and in a time of COVID) to meet their candidate in a 'public' forum.

((WN)) How do you think the delivery of health services could be improved in the Northern Territory?

A bus in Darwin, operated under the Darwinbus public transport network.
Image: User:Bidgee.

((Rebecca Jennings)) Connectivity has been a continual theme throughout my campaign, we need to be able to connect people to remote service health hubs, whether that be via public bus services, better roads, roaming health care or even investing in the technology to talk to health practitioners via videolink for non-urgent appointments. This would reduce the reactivity in the healthcare sector as people would be able to regularly access providers.

((WN)) What are your thoughts on the criminal justice system?

((Rebecca Jennings)) This is a complicated and multi-faceted issue, one of which I don't have all the answers, but what I am frustrated about is the lack of alternative sentencing arrangements and incarceration for crimes that might be better suited to non-jailable sentences, such as community service.

((WN)) How are you funding your campaign?

((Rebecca Jennings)) I am self-funding the campaign and have needed to be strategic with my spending. I luckily have had strong support from family, friends and volunteers who have given their time (the most precious resource in a campaign), but it would have been easier having sponsors and been able to receive donations like the bigger parties.

((WN)) What's one key law reform you'd like to pursue as an MP?

The Daly River in 2009.
Image: Stephen Michael Barnett.

((Rebecca Jennings)) As an independent it can be tricky to pass private member bills, but some big reforms I would like to see passed in my lifetime include, reinstating the euthanasia law, legalizing cannabis, decriminalising other drugs, strengthening the environmental protection legislation and removing floor pricing from alcohol sales (as it only benefits the suppliers and bottle shops). But I think one of the key reforms I would love to action immediately is strengthening of the Water Act to protect our waterways and water sources; we would need to see appropriate penalties for illegal extraction and a tightened control on licensing to reduce overuse. We need to keep our precious resources intact and available for future generations.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.