Hi, I’m Stephen.
I work in retail customer support, right here in Stafford. It’s the kind of work experience that is common in our community, but rare in our Parliament. My job connects me to our neighbourhood and people from all walks of life. Every day I witness our community suffering as the costs of living rise and wages stagnate.
I grew up in Yeppoon, in Central Queensland, before being accepted to study Hotel and Tourism Management at the University of Queensland. Like many young people are forced to do, I deferred and spent a year waiting tables, saving enough money to be able to afford the move to Brisbane and the pursuit of higher education.
While studying, I took an opportunity to work in the United States for Disneyland, the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth”, but the fantasy was short-lived. In America, I experienced first-hand the oppression that comes from below-poverty wages and the corporatisation of essential services which puts basics like healthcare out of reach for many. I worked for $7.25 an hour, struggling to pay my bills. I had to eat cheap food and forgo health concerns because I simply could not afford to take time off work. It was confronting watching co-workers cry in stock rooms, wondering how they would afford to support their families through to their next pay cheque.
This experience shone a light on decisions made by our governments that would lead us down the same slippery slope to rampant inequality. I want to do my part to ensure we here in Australia don’t follow that same path.
The ongoing health and economic crisis has highlighted just how vulnerable many of us are. But as we come out the other side, we don’t have to return to this broken model. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to rebuild a society that values health and solidarity over greed and selfishness.
We can have truly free healthcare and education that is accessible to everyone. We can have publicly owned renewable energy infrastructure that is the envy of the world and is manufactured right here in Queensland. We can ensure that everyone has a home by building tens of thousands of public homes all across Queensland. We just need politicians who represent us instead of their corporate donors.
The system has been rigged, but right now, we have an opportunity to fix it. Will you join me?