We were all shocked and disappointed when Scott had to resign from the Senate over the dual citizenship affair. At the 2016 Federal election, Jordon Steele-John was listed third on the WA Senate team, with little prospect of The Greens garnering enough votes to propel him into the Senate. So, it must have been a surprise to Jordon himself when he was called upon to step into the breach to replace Scott. He had to defer his university studies, majoring in politics and history, to suddenly immerse himself in real-time politics and history. And history it immediately was, him becoming the youngest ever Australian senator, at 23 years of age, and the first with a disability requiring a wheelchair, due to having mild cerebral palsy.
Jordon was born in the UK in 1994, and came to Australia with his parents as a young child. He remains embarrassed about his strong English accent, despite its obvious contribution to his eloquence. He attributes it to growing up in a multi-generational household and to being a fan of Harry Potter from age 6, when he got his first three Harry Potter audio books on a CD player which were narrated by Stephen Fry. One reason for this embarrassment about accent is that it inevitably raises the question of dual citizenship – rest easy folks he renounced his UK citizenship prior to his candidature in the 2013 Federal election.
Jordon claims to have been a political nerd from his earliest memories. His parents were originally staunch UK Labour supporters, transferring to Australian Labor after coming here. His first intensive political memory was about the Tampa crisis in 2001, when he had reached the mature (for him) age of 6. He was disturbed at the Howard Government’s reaction to people seeking refuge. From then on, he began developing his social conscience, becoming ever more interested in how political decisions affect ordinary people’s lives, and developing the desire for immersion in the political process.
Initially, his political allegiance aligned with Labor, but he became increasingly disillusioned with that party. During the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years his disappointment in Labor grew particularly over their ambiguity on taxing large corporations and refugee policy. The final straw was the attempted Malaysia solution, aimed at exporting refugees to another country, ultimately leading to Labor’s re-opening of Nauru and Manus. So, at the age of 16 he joined The Greens and has never looked back.
Having travelled through life with a disability, Jordon has a particular interest in adequate funding and effective roll out of the NDIS, a prime focus now that he is in the Senate. And now he has a real platform to do something about that, having already instigated the construction of platforms in the Senate chamber, in the form of ramps to accommodate his wheelchair. But he is also equally passionate about issues such as realistic action on climate change, affordable housing, digital rights, quality education and an effective transition to a new economy. Being young helps, but he still wonders how our society can be so bound to the myths and misconceptions that have shaped our past, and now threaten our future.
Rather than being content with just being a political philosopher, Jordan has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the political fray. He has been a candidate for the WA Greens three times prior to the 2016 Federal Election. He stood in the electorate of Warnbro at the March 2013 state election (receiving 8.8% primary vote), in the electorate of Fremantle in the September 2013 Federal election (receiving 11.9% primary vote) and as the fourth candidate on the Greens' list in the April 2014 special half-senate election which followed the result of the 2013 election being voided by the Court of Disputed Returns.
So, since joining The Greens, Jordon has been vigorously and endlessly campaigning, with the exception of doorknocking as most houses and some streets are not wheelchair friendly. And, as an inevitable consequence of youth, he has been highly active on social media, no doubt using that to bring many young people to The Greens.
Jordon admits that he was somewhat gobsmacked by his entry into the Senate, but that did not phase him when crafting a rather profound maiden speech, which can be viewed at below. To contact and interact with Jordon you can find all of his email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. details at https://greens.org.au/wa/mps/jordon-steele-john.
Photo credit: The Greens (WA)