Animal Justice Party fields biologist in race for Cooper


Nadine Richings describes herself as a lifelong biologist. The Animal Justice Party candidate for the Melbourne metropolitan seat of Cooper remembers having a feeling of wonder about the natural world as a child.

“I’m that daggy little kid who would watch ants follow one another up brick walls.” Richings says. “I’d say to the adults ‘how do they know how to follow each other?’ and the adults were like, what sort of kid asks that question?”

Richings used her curiosity for the natural world, going on to study biology at Latrobe University.

Her eventual PhD research applied reproductive technology in marsupials, focussing on the tammar wallaby.

Still passionate about protecting kangaroos and wallabies, Richings believes they should not be considered pests.

“The kangaroo is one of the most extraordinary animals on the planet, and they are utterly iconic. The kangaroo is an animal that represents Australia, it’s our logo. So why do we have government authorised killing of so many of them? Kangaroos have been here for 35 million years, they’re not a pest. If there’s a pest, it’s us.” Richings says.

Richings first ran for office in the Victorian state election in November 2018. Campaigning on a platform of animal wellbeing and protection issues, Richings secured just under three percent of the primary vote for the Animal Justice Party in the lower house seat of Preston.

Of all the party’s policies, Richings’ passion is most evident when she talks about wildlife and ecosystems in the local area.

She calls many of the public areas in Reservoir her extended backyard, parks and reserves that she played in as a child.

A green space that Richings refers to as the Dumbarton street grasslands was a big part of why she decided to stand as an electoral candidate.

“It’s part of what we call the Victorian Volcanic Plains grassland. Once it was an incredible ecosystem, now it’s critically endangered. There’s less than one percent of it left. We have utterly obliterated it,” she says.

Richings joined Darebin Nature Trust, an expert group set up by Darebin council as part of their climate emergency plan. Excited to take action to save the grasslands in her community, she drove home late at night, elated.

“At ten pm I drove home past the grasslands. A for sale sign had gone up. The site qualifies for protection under the federal environmental protection and biodiversity act. It’s owned by the Victorian government, and has been earmarked for housing,” she says.

“I know we need housing, but let’s use land we’ve already destroyed, not destroy more. That was the moment I decided I would run as a candidate.”

Richings now lives in the Reservoir home from her childhood, where she first watched ants crawl up brick walls.

She owned a house in West Preston for 23 years, but sold the property immediately when her parents told her they were planning to move on from the home she grew up in.

Her childhood pets are buried in the backyard, and she just couldn’t bear the idea that it would belong to someone else. It’s about 80 metres from the grasslands that she hopes to save.

Richings knows that some feel the Animal Justice Party policies are narrow by focusing only on animals, but she feels that improving animal welfare will improve all of society.

“All of our policies will have a foundation in animal protection and giving animals better lives, but they all feed back to society. Violence begets violence. If we can reduce violence in any capacity, we’re going to improve all of society,” she says.