26 - 28 FEBRUARY, 2021 • ONLINE

Build community knowledge and share practical advice to get more independent, community-minded candidates in Australian politics.


Hosted by Cathy McGowan AO, this is a unique opportunity to network, share your campaigning skills and learn more about how community independents can change Australia for the better.
  • The convention starts 5.30pm Friday, 26 February 2021
  • Concludes 1pm Sunday, 28 February 2021
  • Online using Zoom
The convention will provide a powerful and inspiring learning experience for attendees:
  • Keynote addresses, panel discussions, practical workshops and small group discussions
  • Opportunities to network and connect with independent, community-minded people from across Australia
  • Build connections
  • Share knowledge
  • Enhance your networks
Networking dinners
We invite attendees to host their own networking dinner on Saturday 27 February.  We want you to join your mates or team in person, and reflect on the day's proceedings and what it means for your plans to get a community-minded independent elected in your area.  As you come together over food and drinks we encourage you to have robust discussions around what you heard. Consider what surprised you, or inspired you? Take notes on what has galvanised you into planning your next steps.
Start planning your dinner now. Who will you invite? Where will it be? Have fun!
Tickets are only $55 per person. We appreciate that occasionally life can get in the way and we certainly don't want adversity to hinder democracy. A limited number of fee-free spaces are available. Contact us to discuss your circumstances.
Registrations close 5pm, 24 February 2021.


Cathy McGowan AO

Community Champion and former independent Member for Indi

In 2013, Cathy broke the Liberal/National Coalition’s hold on the seat of Indi, successfully becoming the first independent member for the north-east Victorian electorate.

Author of “Cathy Goes to Canberra,“ she is convenor and host of the Convention organising group.

Dr Helen Haines MP

Independent Federal Member for Indi

In May 2019, Helen made history by becoming the first independent federal parliamentarian to succeed another in the same electorate since Federation in 1901.

With a doctoral degree in medical science and background in epidemiology and public health, Helen is a nurse, midwife, teacher, and academic. ⁠Helen is a community independent politician with a commitment to action on climate change, integrity, regional Australia and revitalisation of our democracy.⁠

Professor Kerryn Phelps AM

Former independent Member for Wentworth and Councillor, City of Sydney

Dr Phelps' arrival in Canberra as the member for Wentworth in 2018 was the culmination of 20 years of activism and advocacy. 

Kerryn is one of Australia's best-known doctors and public health and human rights advocates. The Sydney-based GP and former President of the AMA is a Councillor for the City of Sydney.



Senator Jacqui Lambie is leader and founder of the Jacqui Lambie Network and a Tasmanian Senator. She believes it's time to get things done, no excuses and no pussy-footing around.

Rebekha Sharkie MP is the federal member for Mayo and a member of Centre Alliance. Sitting on the crossbench, Rebekha is a champion for all the issues impacting on regional and rural communities, as well as a strong voice on justice around social security, education, aged care, young people and refugees.


Suzanna Sheed MP is the independent member for the Shepparton District in the Victorian Legislative Assembly. She has secured millions of dollars for her electorate including $356.5 million to upgrade the Shepparton train line, $170 million for Goulburn Valley Health, $10.2 million for a Shepparton Bypass route, $10 million for a new Shepparton Art Museum, plus $21.5 million for the Shepparton Education Plan.


Tammy Atkins is a founding member of Voices For Indi and is a Managing Director of It's On Purpose, where she works with communities to apply business and finance skills to solve social and community challenges. She has run as an independent candidate for the Victorian state seat of Murray Valley.


Jill Briggs is the Executive Director of Affectus a company committed to making a difference through developing leaders.  She is most happy when working with groups of people who wish to chart a future course. She is a skilled, experienced and high-energy,  workshop facilitator. 

Rob Carolane is the current Convenor of Voices for Indi which aims to strengthen active participation by the whole community in the process of democracy and strive for the highest standards of political representation.

Denis Ginnivan is a founding member and past President of Voices for Indi and conducts the ‘Voices For’ project supporting the emergence of community democracy groups and community selected independent candidates and their election campaigns.

Phil Haines is a founding member of Voices For Indi and the Indi independent campaign’s campaign manager / director for the 2013, 2016, and 2019 federal elections.

Jacqui Hawkins stood as the independent candidate for the Victorian Legislative Assembly seat of Benambra.  Jacqui has worked as an electoral officer for a number of independent members of Parliament and is an advisor in the office of Suzanna Sheed MP.

Licia Heath is CEO of Women for Election Australia, a non-partisan group committed to increasing the number of women in office at local, state and federal levels. She has run as a federal candidate and has led social change campaigns in her community. Licia is passionate about encouraging women candidates from all different backgrounds to be positively engaged in the political process in Australia.  

Alana Johnson AM has a background in social science and psychotherapy, leadership and governance training. A social activist and change expert she is Chair of the Victorian Women’s Trust and co-founder and past President of Voices for Indi.

Ruth McGowan OAM authored Get Elected: A Step-by-Step Campaign Guide to Winning Public Office. Ruth is a skilled and experienced facilitator and will be managing the candidate workshop. Through her business and with other partners, Ruth has delivered more than fifty Get Elected workshops across Australia and has supported thousands of people to stand for election. 

Dr Rowan O’Hagan is a founding member of Voices For Indi. She designed and managed the rosters, staffing and volunteers handing out ‘how to vote cards’ for the 96 voting booths in the 2013, 2016, and 2019 Indi elections for the two independent candidates.

Tony Perrot ran the numbers for the Indi campaigns and explained how preferences really work to make winning possible.

Judy Ryan - As a country woman living in an inner-city, Judy used the electoral system to determine - and secure – community support for a medically supervised injecting room.

Linda Seymour is an initiator of the We Are Hughes movement which aims to return respect, integrity, and trust to politics and strengthen participatory democracy in the electorate of Hughes.

Andrea Wilson is an architect, parent, and active member of
Voices of North Sydney.  She has a deep commitment to enhancing our participation in democracy. 

Together with Sue Gold who will be staffing the help desk through the Convention,  Virginia Eckels and Cynthia Mahoney who will be managing the IT and Zooming capacity.




5.30PM to 7.15 PM

FRIDAY, 26 FEB 2021


Acknowledgement of Country

Welcome and convention overview by Cathy McGowan AO




9.15 AM to 5 PM



Acknowledgement of Country by Cathy McGowan AO 

Dr Helen Haines MP: Being community independent-minded: the why, what, how, when and where.


Three workshop streams: Candidate, Campaign, and Community

Two expert panels: 

  1. Why Bother? Being an independent in the current Australian Political System.

  2. Stories from the hustings. What does it take?


9.15 AM to 1 PM

SUNDAY, 28 FEB 2021


Acknowledgement of Country

Professor Kerryn Phelps AMSeven months that changed Australia: The role of people, preferences, politics and power in Wentworth from October 2018 – May 2019.

Activist conversations

Convention close by Cathy McGowan. This will include a wrap up, summary and outline of where to next. 

*All convention times are Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) - the time it is in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania



FRIDAY, 26 FEB 2021

5:30 PM TO 7.30 PM

Welcome, overview and connections


Following Acknowledgement of Country, Cathy McGowan AO will welcome participants and elucidate the motivation for the Convention and how community independents can change Australia for the better and raise the standards in politics.

As the Convention aims to facilitate networking, sharing skills, knowledge, and experience, participants will then have the opportunity to meet each other in a series of short small chatroom conversations.



9.15 AM TO 5 PM

Knowledge and action

Following an Acknowledgement of Country, Saturday commences with a ‘let’s focus’ presentation with Cathy McGowan AO, followed by a presentation by Dr Helen Haines MP who will speak about what it takes to prepare for and deliver as an independent member of Parliament.

Attendees then have a chance to gain further knowledge by attending online workshops with experts.  Join one of three concurrent workshops: 

  1. Candidate - led by Ruth McGowan OAM

  2. Campaign - led by Jill Briggs

  3. Community – led by Alana Johnson AM

After lunch, there is the opportunity to hear from two expert panels. This will be facilitated by Alana Johnson AM

Why Bother? Being an independent in the current Australian political system - with Suzanna Sheed MP, Zali Steggall OAM MP and Rebekha Sharkie MP. 

  • A discussion about the meaning and value of having and being community politicians and participatory democracy: What works, why, where are the wins? Stories of success, stories of challenges, and lessons

Stories from the hustings, What does it take? With Senator Jacqui Lambie, Judy Ryan, Jacqui Hawkins and Tammy Atkins.

  • ​A discussion about the benefits and challenges for community-minded independents standing for election and the diversity of outcomes.  Stories from the campaign trail and lessons to be shared.

Networking dinners

Cathy McGowan will close out the day with an invitation for attendees to continue to talk and plan ‘all things independent’ over dinner in their own homes, communities, or with colleagues online. As you come together over food and drinks we encourage you to have robust discussions around what you heard. Consider what surprised you, or inspired you? Take notes on what has galvanised you into planning your next steps. 



9.15 AM TO 1 PM

Day 3 – Next steps

Day three commences with an Acknowledgement of Country followed by a keynote address from Professor Kerryn Phelps AMSeven months that changed Australia: The role of people, preferences, politics and power in Wentworth from October 2018 – May 2019.

Jill Briggs will then invite participants to join a range of activist conversations on topics related to getting more independent, community-minded candidates elected to Australian politics. These will be facilitated and key issues raised will be fed back to the entire convention.

As a final session, “Next Steps” will be shared with a focus on how campaigns can be supported, how communities can be resourced, and how campaign teams can be assisted.

We've had an extraordinary response to our call for speakers. The speakers named above are confirmed. However, we reserve our right to amend the convention format as the date nears. Attendees will receive a final conference program, including links to each session, before Wednesday 24 February 2021.





Connect with likeminded community-independents and supporters to amplify your impact
Learn and share campaigning skills and begin to plan your campaign

Take action!

Run yourself - or support a winning election campaign



This event is run by volunteers and we thank our speakers, presenters and panellists for donating their time and wise words towards encouraging more independent, community-minded people into Australian politics.  The convention is being delivered on a not for profit basis. Our organising committee includes:

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Indi's first Independent. Cathy encourages people to turn up, speak up and step up to leadership.

Cathy McGowan AO

0418 326 960

Alana Johnson AM is a changemaker, a pioneer of the rural women’s movement, an activist for gender equality and a cofounder and past President of Voices for Indi. Alana is renowned for her public speaking and facilitating conversations that create pathways for change. 


Alana Johnson AM


0427 624 214

Ruth McGowan OAM supports local government leaders to excel. She is a skilled, Councillor-coach, author of Get Elected and is renowned for her engaging workshops for leaders on good governance, political intelligence and gender equality. Ruth is a co-founder of Honour a Woman and partners with Women For Election Australia to support more women to run for office.

Ruth McGowan OAM

0431 664 693


We deliver programs and workshops that transform the leadership skills of participants. Our work spreads from national industry leadership programs to local community volunteer work. 

Jill Briggs

0409 455 710

Unlock high performance leadership through courageous conversations.  Create a motivated and collaborative team culture that uncovers and celebrates the brilliance within each individual.

Cynthia Mahoney

0427 622 654

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Tammy Atkins and Sue Gold will help you to effect change.  

Mentoring, effective engagement, tough conversations, strategic writing: we make the complex tangible and then work with you, your team or your community - often applying business and finance skills - to bring your idea and dreams to life.


Tammy Atkins and Sue Gold 

0411 094 165 

Tina Jackson


Tina is a leading member of the Warringah Campaign. She is committed to climate action and changing Australia for the better by electing community-minded independents.

Tina Jackson

0419 277 752


North East Conference

& Event Planners


Virginia Eckels is an event and meeting planner based in northeast Victoria.

Virginia Eckels

0408 109 707

nemeet @


The organising committee are professionals committed to helping drive their community and industries forward.  Together, they recognise that community leadership at a grassroots level is crucial to the future of communities across Australia. This convention is being delivered on a not-for-profit basis.


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Part memoir, part community organising guide, Cathy Goes to Canberra offers a glimpse inside Cathy McGowan’s grassroots campaign, sharing in detail how thousands of ordinary people got together, organised themselves and amplified their voices. She explains how the campaign, which started around people’s kitchen tables, worked to harness people’s best selves, radically altering the political terrain and forging a path for others.  Cathy Goes to Canberra is an inspiring tale and a primer for other communities and individuals looking to create meaningful change. 

The code CATHYCONFERENCE2021 provides a special price of $25 when applied in the checkout. Shipping is free within Australia. Offer expires 31 March 2021. 



Tammy Atkins and Sue Gold would like to support you to effect change.  


Mentoring, effective engagement, tough conversations, strategic writing: we make the complex tangible and then work with you to bring your idea and dreams to life. We understand what it's like to campaign and stand for election – we’ve done it. We’re happy to share the practical tools and approaches that have helped us, especially how to run a campaign on a shoestring budget. 


We’re offering a free one-hour confidential conversation to potential candidates to help you explore your next steps.  This offer expires 31 March 2021 (but we're always happy to chat). 

0411 094 165 



Jill Briggs has designed three types of support for campaign managers to help them navigate the ‘what’ ‘how’ and ‘who’ of their challenging role.


Leveraging her own campaign experience and her leadership development background, she has crafted an intensive one-day course and one-to-one coaching and mentor programs to help campaign managers feel supported and remain focused on doing the best job possible.

0409 455 710


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Contact Us

To learn more, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Cathy McGowan AO: 0418 326 960  

Authorised by C McGowan, Indigo Valley Victoria 3688

ABN 83 079 780 359    x       x