Meet the Independents: Meredith Urie

Right, I’ve had a sleep and am now somewhat vaguely awake.  Let the jetlagged commentaries commence!

Meredith Urie looks like a bit of a sweetheart.  Her keywords are ‘inclusive, insightful, integrative’, and her vision is ‘thriving self – thriving relationships – thriving communities – thriving planet’.  Her mission is to raise the quality of political dialogue, which I think we can all agree could use some raising, and her principles and values are:

Deeply listen
Respond with an open heart
Continuously learn
Make decisions from the best place

She wants to take care of the whole person (and gets bonus points from me for not using the word ‘holistic’), she wants decision making to involve ‘multiple stakeholders and the most complete information’, and to benefit all individuals, the environment, the economy and future generations’.  She likes words like ‘curious’ and ‘connectedness’ and ‘collaboration’ and ‘respect’, she wants to build trust, and, oh drat, now she is using the word ‘wholistic’, so not only does she lose that bonus point, she loses an extra point for spelling it weirdly.  She calls her policy advisors her support group, which makes me giggle because I am a terrible person, and also jetlagged, which apparently makes me even more sarcastic than usual.

Meredith (Mendy) calls herself an inquisitive life enthusiast, a perennial student and keen meditator, who values deep connection and collaborative engagement. She is passionate about working with people to develop inclusive solutions with empathy and respect for the individuals involved as well as for the creative process.

Mendy is a future-thinker, who regularly challenges herself to think differently and think more about the future. She is driven to help create a more inclusive, insightful and integrative politics in Australia.

While I must confess that this style of writing is one that I find a little bit too hippy-corporate for my taste, I do actually quite like the content.  And Ms Urie does appear to have some quite useful background – she has eight years in local government, with three terms as Mayor of East Gippsland Shire Council, is on the Board of Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, and on the Committee of Management of Bairnsdale Recycling, and is the President of women4evolution. She is a former nurse and midwife, and has worked in indigenous health and palliative care.  This suggests someone who is actually pretty competent, despite her eyebrow-raising writing style.

Also, I like this:

Although I have my own political bias, which would be fairly considered as socially progressive and left-leaning, I hold to the conviction that better policy responses are possible when there is a process of better and more effective dialogue amongst members in the parliament, with interested players and stakeholders in the field, and as appropriate, with the broader community.

She has chosen to focus on the areas of Democracy, Mental Health, Economics and Environment, and Education, and her process will be as follows:

With the help of my support group, during each week of the campaign I will be exploring policy topics through a four-step process, through which I will:

  • hold a Dialogue about the policy topic of the week with two stakeholders. An audio recording of this will be made available on the site.
  • upload my Reflection on the dialogue
  • discuss the dialogue with the support group to get a wider range of opinions
  • Record a final Perspective video on the topic

This all sounds quite good, however every single bit of this process is a video – there is nothing in text about her actual policy positions.  You have to wade through 40 minutes of dialogue, and then seven or eight minutes of reflection and perspective to find out what her views are.  This is a real weakness, I think, because most people do not have four hours to spend listening to videos to find out what a candidate’s policies are, especially if they are researching multiple candidates – or even necessarily half an hour to listen to the perspectives videos, which still take quite some time to get to the actual policies.

Honestly, I’d much rather have a lot of text to read than this, because I can skim them and pull out the bits I need, and I can do it on public transport or when my husband is trying to sleep. In passing, I note that they do at least have close captioning, so yay for inclusivity on this score.

Under Democracy, she talks a lot about how people are feeling disengaged and not listened to, and how we need leaders who will listen to the people and take advice.  She finds the tone of political discourse is currently toxic and discourages people from participating, and she feels that we need to find ways to include the community in problem solving, particularly in tricky areas like tax reform and asylum seekers.  I can’t argue with any of this.

Under education, she talks a bit about inclusiveness, lack of support for teachers, and the need to teach children about emotional intelligence, and she is worried that as education becomes more reliant on technology, this disadvantages those who have less access to technology by reason of distance or poverty.  However, her key concern is that schools and universities are leaning more towards teaching towards jobs rather than teaching critical thinking, self expression, problem solving, and communication. She feels that in our changing world and economy this is a dangerous narrowing, and that people need to learn broader skills, including creativity, innovation and flexibility to be able to move with the times.  Also, she laments the fact that Arts degrees are not considered useful.  I am 100% on board with Ms Urie on this.

Under mental health, she is once again very keen on making sure people are kept connected to and engaged with their communities.  And she supports all the recommendations in the recent review of mental health programs and services.

Under economy and environment, she worries that we prioritise money over people and the environment, and views the divide between rich and poor, damage to the environment, and the idea that human life is a means of production or a part in a machine as serious ‘costs’.  I like this way of looking at the world.  She also feels that people need to know that their work is important, and wants to see further research into the possibilities of a guaranteed minimal income, climate mobilisation, and a circular economy (which is apparently an economy that produces no waste and no pollution).  I did not listen to this video in its entirety, because it took longer than usual to get to the point, and I still have three more parties and independents to write about today!

Ms Urie also has a distillation video, which is only four minutes long, but it’s mostly about her views on how politics should work, rather than about her actual policies.  She talks about the need for ‘knowledge leadership’ and ‘wise leadership’.  She cares passionately about the future, and sees Australians as a ‘diverse, hardworking and innovative people, who want to contribute to their country’, and wants ‘ongoing dialogues with engaged communities’, and repeats the need for the public to be more involved in political decision making.

I really do like Ms Urie.  I like that she is left leaning, and has some interesting experience.  I like her passion for engagement, and I really like her admission that she does not know everything and that it is important to consult with people who have more kinformation or different perspectives.

But I have to say, her reliance on video is driving me nuts.

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