By HARRY CLARKE
THE co-founder of the Home to Bilo campaign, which has helped the widely publicised plight of Biloela’s Murugappan refugee family, says the success of the campaign demonstrates her ability to create grassroots change as she vies to become the first Labor MP for the seat of Callide.
Bronwyn Dendle helped instigate the change.org petition which drew international attention in the fight to allow the Sri Lankan Murugappan family to return to their adopted home of Biloela.
A Biloela local who met the family through her work in healthcare, Dendle has for the past week been campaigning as the Labor candidate for the Callide by-election on June 18.
“It was all about listening to people, understanding the issue and advocating for people, and I didn’t let that go until we got a result,” Dendle said of the Home to Bilo campaign.
The Murugappan family will return to Biloela from Perth this week while their VISA application remains before the courts. Newly appointed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had promised to act on the matter if elected.
“It’s about negotiation and supporting local initiative and ideas and coming to the table and being solution focussed. Mud slinging and political point scoring is useless to people on the ground,” Brownyn Dendle said.
Now the Labor candidate for Callide, Dendle said her values aligned with the ALP so she jumped at the opportunity to run for the party.
“I was that little girl who said “one day I want to be Prime Minister” so politics is something I’ve always been interested in, so when the opportunity presented itself I grabbed it with both hands,” she said.
“I’m big on social justice and integrity and the whole philosophy of standing up for what you believe in, mobilising communities to do what’s right and get results.”
Dendle’s family, originally from Monto, has a trucking, logging and dairy background.
She’s had a career spanning more than two decades as a social worker and has lived with her husband Matt and five children in Biloela for the past seven years.
Callide, which encompasses parts of Queensland’s Wide Bay, Burnett, Capricorn and Western Downs regions, was vacated by previous MP Colin Boyce after he successfully ran for the federal seat of Flynn at last month’s general election.
It’s a firmly held LNP seat. Colin Boyce amassed a 15.3 percent margin at the 2020 Queensland Election.
The new LNP candidate is Bryson Head. Adam Burling is running for Katter’s Australian Party, the One Nation candidate is Sharon Lohse while Fabrice Jarry and Paula Gilbard are running for the Legalise Cannabis and Animal Justice parties respectively.
“For nearly 70 years this electorate has been represented by the LNP or their equivalent. If you keep doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got,” Dendle said.
“I can offer what no other candidate in this election can offer, and that is a seat at that table for real change. More than that, my philosophy is grassroots change. I’m all about listening and understanding people on the ground and advocating for their solutions.
“What this by-election does offer our communities is the opportunity to have someone who’s in a sitting government, who’s actually got a seat on the government benches, who can take the local solutions, resource them and make them a policy.”