By Katie McCusker, Greens Candidate for Dunstan 


In a suburb just east of Adelaide, tucked away in the side streets, an unsuspecting candidate walks into an effortlessly cool wine bar space after the intense heat of ten hours on polling booths. She strolls on in like it’s any other day, but the place is jam packed with Greens t-shirts clinging to skins shimmering with sunscreen and sunburn combined.

Three deep at the bar, there’s an intensity of excitement masking an underlying exhaustion which refuses to be acknowledged by a single person there. Heads turn. There’s a pause. Then the clapping erupts. Hang on, I think in my head – it’s just me – you know?

But this is it. Our moment – the day we changed the political landscape in South Australia forever. This was the Dunstan by-election of 2024.

The seat of Dunstan is an inner east area of Adelaide retained by former SA Premier Steven Marshall at the 2022 State Election. It wasn’t long after that rumours abounded that he wouldn’t last the distance. So much so that I was announced as the candidate for a possible by-election by the end of that year. But then nothing! By the time January 2024 came around, a by-election was the last thing on my mind, but thank you Steven – your timing couldn’t have been more perfect. 

The eight-week campaign for the Dunstan by-election was big and bold from the outset. Our goal was to increase our primary vote from 13.7% to 18% and we smashed it.

We had taken every opportunity to be out in the community with an amazing well-connected group of experienced campaign volunteers, constantly attracting new volunteers and reinvigorating long-term members again. When pre-poll opened, our sheer presence of overwhelming numbers amazed and impressed the community, media, and the other parties. We were well and truly the main event.

People we spoke to did not feel connected to politics or represented by it. Our message was ‘nothing changes if your vote doesn’t’, and the community responded well to us. We stayed positive, listened deeply, and were policy focused. This was in stark contrast with the Liberal and Labor campaigns who quickly descended into a grotesque mudslinging competition and actively avoided policy initiatives. The community was very far from impressed.

By the end of the campaign everyone knew this was now a three-horse race. The Greens received a primary vote of 19.2%, which represents a 5.5% swing, while both major parties received negative swings of over 3%. We had positive swings at every election booth, including swings of just shy of 11% at some booths. 

This success was absolutely down to an extremely well planned and executed strategy, a wonderful and huge group of volunteers, and building strong relationships with community and media.

We knocked on 8,132 doors and had 2,169 meaningful interactions undertaken by 70 volunteers. We leafleted each house with between 4 and 7 pieces of materials. We had an unprecedented 230 volunteers at the prepoll and on election day and our social media advertising reached 53,000.

Additionally, in a South Australian first, we had 80 candidate corflutes on fences. Just before the issuing of the writs for the election, the State Parliament passed legislation banning corflutes on roads. It was incredibly powerful to see so many people announcing their voting intention and support of the Greens to their neighbourhood. By comparison, the major parties only managed to have a very few of their corflutes on fences.

During the eight-week period, I also undertook 7 radio interviews and 9 TV press conferences across all major channels. I was challenged on every topic imaginable but had the greatest support a candidate could ever want across the SA Greens Party office and MPs teams. The lines they came up with knocked every question out of the park. For weeks following, media have continued to mention the Greens impact on the Dunstan by-election, and I was nearly brought to tears by David Bevan, the toughest presenter from 891 ABC Radio Adelaide, announcing days after the election that the Greens had run a great campaign. What a win!

I want to acknowledge all the people involved in this campaign – the truest of treasures. The care, comradery, and brilliance of each of you will never be forgotten. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Now it’s time to level up. Based on these amazing results, we only need a swing of 5.91% and we could take Dunstan to have our first ever Green elected to the lower house of the South Australian Parliament. Oh, and we’ll also be taking Heysen and Adelaide while we’re at it.