Eltham – Labor: Vicki Ward

Vicki Ward says her passion is the local community.

The Labor candidate for Eltham has lived in the electorate since 1973, and spent the last 16 years in the suburb of Eltham with her family.

Ward, who has held the electorate since 2014, says engaging with locals is “a rewarding part of the job”.

She says she enjoyed a recent meeting with the recipients of the David McKenzie Award, which acknowledges children who are improving their schools with positive initiatives.

“Seeing what this award means to those kids, that someone has noticed what they do and the people that they are, and want to recognise and reward it is really lovely,” she said.

Since 2014, Labor says it’s been working to improve education in the electorate by rebuilding old schools and constructing new ones, including the Banyule-Nillumbik Tech School.

It says it’s implemented many public transport projects in the area, including developments to the Hurstbridge train line, level crossing removals, new bus routes, and new train services.

If reelected, Ward says she will continue to focus on improving traffic conditions, which she believes is currently the most important local issue.

“There are things in process to alleviate that traffic stress but that’s certainly the thing that’s on most people’s minds,” she said.

Supporting the local sports clubs, helping community groups get the infrastructure they need and making sure that the local schools are well equipped are also on her list of priorities.

Ward became interested in politics during the 1980s, and joined the Labor party when former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett made cuts to hospitals and schools.

She says there have been many proud and satisfying moments during her time in parliament.

“Being a part of what we’ve done in terms of family violence has been incredibly important,” she said.

“Locally, having the duplication of the [Hurstbridge] train line added into the removal of the level crossing at Rosanna was something I was really happy to be an instrumental part of and see happen.

“It’s been fantastic seeing Montmorency Secondary [College] rebuilt…reopening Greensborough TAFE is also something that has been incredibly important. It’s not something I can say I’ve achieved alone.”

In her 2015 inaugural speech, Ward spoke of fairness, and her belief that everyone deserves the right to make choices about their lives.

She says these values continue to influence her decisions within the community today.

“The main driver is really about equality of opportunity,” she said.

“Just helping people achieve what they want to achieve and be the kind of people that they can be, and working to make sure that there is nothing the state government is doing that limits these opportunities.”

These values are also reflected in Ward’s position on federal issues, as she believes a major challenge that Australians currently face is the cost of living.

“The biggest issue that is challenging people is around affordability, it’s around access to opportunity, to have affordable university education as well as affordable healthcare,” she said.

“There’s increased pressure on them in terms of cost of living as well as how they can improve their own opportunities.”