Quietly making history

Posted on August 21, 2010 by


Kensington Primary School, 2pm. Adults wander in through the front gate. Many Adam Bandts and Julia Gillards gaze down upon them benevolently from green and blue posters. Tucked away in a corner is a lone glamour shot of Tony Abbott, his eyes smouldering like an ageing pop star.

A loose circle of colour-coded volunteers loiters outside the school.

“Liberal?” sighs the first, a middle-aged man with greying hair and an air of rejection. He proffers a how-to-vote card without much hope and without much success. When the voters pass, he goes back to chewing the inside of his lip and not looking at the other volunteers.

“Labor.” declares the next in line, a stout woman who holds out her card with a confident straight arm. She’s determined, and she’s getting some business.

“Greens!” calls out the young man near the gate cheerfully, as though his big green jacket wasn’t a clear enough clue. He bounces lightly on his toes, looking around for new voters coming up the street.

A dirty four-wheel drive with a faded Wilderness Society sticker parks nearby. Prospective voters file by in twos and threes, chatting casually with each other. Most take a how-to-vote card, though many don’t seem to mind who they take it from.

“What have you got there?” says a young man in a baseball cap to his friend.

“Abbott,” says the friend, reading the sheet. “He says he’s going to ‘End Labor’s waste’ … ‘Enforce strict border security’ … ‘End Labor’s massive new mining tax’ … nah, there’s not much policy here.”

“Hey, the Sex Party! I’ll vote for that.”

The line of voters winds from the front gate into a school building, twists left down a corridor, doubles back on itself and then left back out into the playground (here those lining up to vote start to look confused), right past a sausage sizzle, left around a corner and left again into a school hall. They’re well bored by this time.

Quietly, without fanfare, these voters are making history. In a few hours’ time, Adam Bandt will be declared the winner of this seat, and become the first Greens candidate elected into the House of Representatives at a federal election. It’s just one of the stand-out stories at what has turned out to be a truly remarkable election.

A woman with a notepad moves down the line, asking: “Coffee? Coffee?” The voters-to-be perk up properly for the first time. An election is all well and good, but this is Melbourne: coffee is serious business.