By Dylan Fewings
A double booking saw Benedict Coyne ending up at a campaign launch for The Greens instead of heading to a poetry evening. He stayed for the event in late 2017 and heard speeches about economic and social justice policies that filled the human rights lawyer with inspiration. Two years on and he is The Greens’ candidate for Dickson.
At a recent community picnic where meat and veg snags were shared, Mr Coyne braved a swarm of mosquitoes as he told the assembled group the major parties had lost anchor with their founding principles. He said the emergence of independent candidates filled him with hope.
“We need people who don’t have an agenda and aren’t a career politician getting into politics,” Mr Coyne says. “I would be very happy, very excited and very energised to represent the people of Dickson.”
Mr Coyne, 40, was involved with the Western Australia Greens in his early 20s before transitioning into law studies. He later became president of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, working in different areas of civil liberties.
“All of those different things made me keep having a thought that politics is something to pursue,” Mr Coyne says. “Perhaps it’s in the blood or the genes.”
His father was in the Liberal Party and was the Hawthorne Liberal Club president, while his grandparents were members of the Democratic Labour Party. “(They) were good Catholics but not good communists,” Mr Coyne says. “I went to a high school with a Jesuit influence where the motto was ‘seek justice’ and I feel like those words have been tattooed on my brain ever since.”
Mr Coyne has a broad general knowledge, speaking with confidence and intelligence. He regularly cites specific legal sections and counts former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez among his mentors. He has a breadth of experience to match, having been employed as a poet/street theatre artist at Woodford and campaigning against the destruction of forests in Western Australia just a sample of a long CV.
He has spent the last 10 years living in Brisbane and believes Dickson to have some of the best natural beauty and bushland in the state. He recommends a drive through the electorate, with the high chance of seeing eagles and koalas so close to the city. It is an opportunity people should not pass up.
Though law and politics are his bread and butter, Mr Coyne still finds time to appreciate the little things in life. He’s an avid musician and poet, citing artists like Kate Miller-Heidke and Cat Stevens among his favourites. He appears to have the common touch with his potential constituents, too.
While doorknocking with his friend, former Greens senator Scott Ludlam, Mr Coyne startled a woman who was about to smoke marijuana. Without missing a beat, Mr Coyne and Mr Ludlam talked to her about the positive change the Greens could bring. She quickly eased up. “It’s okay: we’re greens, we’re friendly,” Mr Ludlam told her.
Mr Ludlam has known Mr Coyne since the late 1990s. “It’s been kinda delightful to track [his] career from a small greenie-ratbag in forests camped out in the mud,” Mr Ludlam says.
The friendship and respect between the two is radiant. They have their own inside jokes and recount tales of their shared experiences. They are far from the stereotype of tree-hugging hippies usually linked to The Greens – the party that wants to help run the country.