Mainly in communications, I have worked in a number of not-for-profits including Australian Red Cross Victoria, and in education. Committed to action on climate change, I'm keen to play an active part in democracy as an ordinary person. I really enjoy reading and writing, politics (!), walking about the place, following the Magpies, and spotting the amazing variety of birds that many people don't realise live in the area.
It was 1994 when I first came to Northcote, but May 2003 when a leaflet landed in my letter-box and started my career as community campaigner. It was put there by Save Westgarth Village, a local planning group fighting for a community say in development.
In what has become a theme for me, I found it hard to accept that residents had very little say in the decisions that shaped their communities, and their democratic participation seemed limited to "if you don't like us, vote us out" - an opportunity that came about only once every few years. I determined to try to get voted in, and at least get some important issues on the agenda along the way.
In 2004 I stood for the group in the Darebin Council elections, gaining a creditable number of votes and making planning the major theme of that contest.
In 2006 it was time to run for the State seat of Northcote as an independent candidate. Again planning was a theme, but there were lots of other issues, and I pitched my campaign at dissaffected Labor voters who felt the party had abandoned its traditional values, moving ever closer to the Coalition, still ignoring the community on planning, and still run by factions that were less and less representative of people who lived in the seat.
I was disappointed that the promise of Steve Bracks' welcome election in 1999 just wasn't being realised. I had voted Labor back then, and, in a precursor to our recent federal result, saw Bracks work with three independents to form government. My general view, as it was then, is that independents have a lot to offer.
While a late start to my 2006 campaign produced a disappointing result, things changed in the 2008 Darebin Council elections, when I was the leading independent vote-getter in Rucker Ward. My platform included community engagement, planning and development, climate change, protecting open space, safer roads, better public transport, support for local business, health and community services, increased social and public housing, and opposing gaming machines.
Now here I am again. Why? The federal election has highlighted the role of independents in reform, and in creating a more principled and representative policy debate - especially in a hung Parliament. That such a Parliament is looking more likely in Victoria's tightening contest means there is an added incentive to run, especially now that Northcote has become a key inner-Melbourne seat, and not nearly as safe for Labor as it once was.
I've voted Labor and Greens in past elections where I have not run myself, but have never been a member of a political party. In this election, I will be preferencing more progressive parties above less progressive ones - especially on the issue of climate change - but in the end voters decide how they number the candidates on their ballot paper, and they can choose to follow my suggestions or not.
If elected, I will bring to Northcote a genuine independence from party politics, and a willingness to represent constituents directly in the Parliament. I will be aiming to broaden and deepen the debate on local and State issues, to make it more representative and inclusive of your views, and to pursue the kind of reforms we've been seeing federally, as well as those set out in the charter of the three Victorian independents elected back in 1999.
A statement of my policy positions is now available. You're also welcome to have a look at my published articles and letters, my work on reforming Council elections, on the Route 86 improvement project, and on bigger State and national issues such as the 2009 Victorian bushfires and climate change.
If you have a question regarding where I stand on a local issue, please feel free to email me, or to give me a call on 0404 526 555. Above all, ask me why you should Vote 1 Darren Lewin-Hill, Independent for Northcote.