When Lisa Chesters came to Bendigo this week, on a cold and mizzling day, a little gaggle of Labor Party members turned out to help present her to the media.
Among that group, her youth was obvious. When she mixed it with the journalists, most of them quite young, she was right at home.
How does it feel to be the sole candidate for pre-selection? What are Labor’s prospects for the election most say is unwinnable? Does living in Kyneton put you behind in the race to win the hearts and minds of Bendigo?
When she had fielded these questions, and the microphones were switched off, Ms Chesters was astonished.
“Really? That’s it? I was ready for more.”
Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, and schooled at Maroochydore State High then the University of Queensland, Ms Chesters sounds like a Queenslander. Eight years in Victoria, even as a union official, isn’t nearly enough to close a little some of those very open northern vowels.
“Party” is “pardy” and there’s a diphthong inserted into simple words such as “do” that makes them into word-and-a-half words.
She even does a slight upward-inflection on short sentences, such as “I’m excited now”.
What she says is short, to the point, pretty much party-line all the way, but there’s a warmth and openness in her public persona.
“If I am elected,” Ms Chesters said, “I’ll be the first woman to represent the electorate of Bendigo, another reason I’m very proud to contest the election here.
“But I will also say that gender is no longer an issue.
“When you’re out talking to people, they don’t care about gender, they don’t care about age.
“They just want to know you’re going to represent them and you’re going to listen to them.”
Ms Chesters has the jump on other endorsed and independent candidates, the first to be named.
Federal Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons announced a year ago he will retire at the next election, due in 2013.
She deftly avoided the question about how different she may be to the sometimes incautious Mr Gibbons, by saying they have had “passionate debates” on some issues.
“I now have the opportunity to get out there in the electorate and let the community know my views,” Ms Chesters said.
She said her decision to leave her role as Bendigo region representative of United Voice (formerly Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union) was not taken lightly.
“It’s a lot of responsibility. I decided to put my hand up because I am really passionate about the core Labor agenda, which is jobs, better health, better education and a fairer society.”
Ms Chesters’ family owned a small business, and she said she was proud of her dad, who boasted about paying award wages, and criticised other businesses in the area that didn’t.
“That’s industrial relations, and that’s the Fair Work act,” she said.
The biographical details supplied for her first public outing listed Ms Chesters pastimes as gardening, reading and relaxing by playing the cello.
You can take the woman out of Queensland, but can you take Queensland out of the woman?
And yet, Ms Chesters will be at the Thunder’s first ever grand final on Saturday, cheering on Bendigo’s women AFL team.
As she said with enthusiasm and perhaps newly-acquired interest in Bendigo’s favourite sport, “Go women!”