If community organising is all about building power and all politics is local, why aren’t we paying more attention to shifting power at the level of local government? Here is a case study of organising at a local level: Victorian Trades Hall Council’s Candidate School, focused on changing who gets elected to local office. This article features notes taken from the FWD + Organise 2021 Conference held by Australian Progress.
In 2019 and 2020, Victorian unionists embarked on an ambitious plan to shake up electoral politics. Forty people from across the state participated in Australia’s first ever Candidate School, run by Victorian Trades Hall Council. They learnt how to campaign on issues they cared about in their local communities. And despite many of them campaigning during a pandemic, with zero experience and limited time, some of them made history. This is the extraordinary story of four Candidate School participants, all proud and active unionists spanning AMWU, ASU Private and HACSU.
The Place to Start
Who gets to play in electoral politics? How do we get people into local government?
- 49% candidates re-elected unchallenged
- Elect new progressive worker voices in conservative areas
- Build leadership and structure for rank and file
The Digital Program
- Transformed our agenda to online
- 6 month program to online weekly
- Model now being used for NZ school
- 9 unions
- Campaigns training and conversation training
The results far exceeded what they planned.
What we said we’d do
- 15 unionists trained
- 5 commit to running for council
- 1 elected
What we did
- 49 candidates trained
- 10 committed to running for council
- 3 elected
About Speaker and Conference
Nadia Montague (Victorian Trades Hall Council) – Nadia (she/her) is lead of campaigns at Victorian Trades Hall Council. She believes that the working class should be in power, and launched Australia’s first progressive-only candidate school coaching program in 2019, where candidates were successfully elected. Nadia has been working in elections for 17 years. She has worked in the across the environment and union movements as an organiser and trainer.
FWD+Organise 2021 was a conference held by Australian Progress for community organisers and digital campaigners from across Australia and Aotearoa to share practical skills, learn innovative approaches to advocacy and build lasting collaborations to win systemic change. Sessions included keynotes, workshops, masterclasses, and expert briefings. Access other conference sessions here.
- Working People Getting a Seat at the Table, Megaphone Journal, 2021
Penny Flynn, who participated in the inaugural class of Candidate School in 2020, was subsequently successful in getting elected to her local council of Horsham…”I think my influence at the table has been a good thing, because I bring a different perspective. A working person’s perspective.”
- Getting Elected: The first national convention for community-minded independents
Access videos and presentations from the first Australian convention for independent, community-minded candidates.
- Australian Progress (Conference)
- FWD + Organise 2021 (Australian Progress Conference - Australia)
- Government - Local
- Organising - Electoral