NFP CEO in Tight Battle for Qld Seat
7 July 2016 at 11:31 am
The CEO of a Queensland mental health organisation, who is in a tight electoral battle over the federal seat of Herbert, says it’s time for more Not for Profit leaders to take their their skills to Parliament.
Labor Party candidate Cathy O’Toole is in a neck-and-neck electoral battle in the Townsville-based seat which has been held by the Liberal National Party since John Howard was first elected in 1996.
The Australian Electoral Commission has O’Toole ahead of LNP incumbent Ewen Jones by a handful of votes following a swing of almost 7 per cent to the Labor Party, but the final outcome may take another week.
O’Toole told Pro Bono Australia News that Parliament would benefit from having more people with skills from the Not for Profit sector.
“I have worked 15 years in the Not for Profit sector in mental health and I have also worked in small business for myself since I was 18 in a range of industries. It is time we had those skills and abilities in the Parliament particularly from the Not for Profit sector,” O’Toole said.
“I don’t think people understand that we actually run really good businesses.”
O’Toole said she had taken extended leave as CEO of SOLAS (Supported Options in Lifestyle and Access Services), a community managed organisation offering mental health services, to contest the seat for a second time.
“I absolutely love my job at SOLAS. It is a fantastic organisation and it does great work across northern and western Queensland. The support I have had from the staff and the board has been second to none,” O’Toole said.
“The election result is very close and way too close to call. What’s happening is they are recounting the booths as they go and the postals.
“Really for me it’s about getting a fairer deal for this seat. I think also I am particularly passionate about health, education and aged care. They are the areas that really interest me but also in the last couple of years and particularly here in Townsville unemployment has become a major issue.
“Unemployment has almost doubled… and also youth unemployment is almost at 20 per cent.
“In my work in the Not for Profit sector we have our head office in Townsville and we work from Palm Island to Mount Isa. Palm Island is in the electorate of Herbert and there’s real need for work and opportunities so that’s another motivating factor for me.
“I guess in the last five years the needs of people with mental health conditions have become much stronger so that is always a motivating factor.”
O’Toole said the challenge between the implementation of the NDIS and mental health needs are also really challenging.
“There are probably maybe 70 per cent of people with mental health conditions who would not be eligible [for the NDIS] and it’s not a problem so long as we ensure that the funding is there for those people to continue to get the support that they need,” she said.
O’Toole said she will return to work as the CEO of SOLAS next week while the votes are decided.
“It is my plan and my intention to go back to work next week… because I can’t sit around waiting and that was the agreement,” she said.
“This is an amazing outcome for the campaign team and myself… to think we came into this with a 6.2 per cent margin and we are still in there, come what may, is an extraordinary outcome.”