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Getting to know you

04 Jun 2015

Getting to know you Image

Should the federal government run its full term, Docklands voters will have plenty of time to get to know endorsed Melbourne ALP candidate Sophie Ismail.

Ms Ismail, 37, beat a strong field of candidates last month for the right to represent the Labor Party as it attempts to wrest back from the Greens the federal seat of Melbourne.

While some observers have already noted that Ms Ismail’s credentials out-muscle the Greens at their own game, she points out that there is more to her than her identity.

“People are very interested in my identity and I am proud of my identity as a gay woman from a mixed race background and as a woman and proud feminist,” she said.   “But I’m also a lot more than that.  And it’s important not to allow yourself to be reduced to your identity.”

“I’m putting my hand up because we need a strong, progressive voice on the national issues – marriage equality, refugees, renewable energy targets, sustainability issues – but we also need a member for Melbourne who can deliver for the community on the local issues that matter to Melburnians.”

Originally from Brisbane, Ms Ismail says Docklands reminds her of that city’s Southbank redevelopment.

“It reminds me of Southbank in Brisbane and early on there was a lot of negative perceptions – that it was manufactured and soulless,” she said. “But it’s actually fantastic.  Melbourne does have a lot of unique little zones and each has its own qualities that should be celebrated.”

Ms Ismail is a lawyer with national and international experience in trade negotiations, labour law, human rights and discrimination.

She identifies housing affordability, health and jobs as issues of importance to local people.

“I am concerned that people are missing out in Melbourne,” she said. “I see the people who are slipping through the cracks and only a Labor government can deliver for those people.  That’s my motivation.”

“I have nothing against the Greens.  I am not intending to be negative about them.  I haven’t met Adam (Bandt) yet.  I think he’s well intentioned, but my concern is that there has to be a capacity to deliver.  To me, that’s what progressive politics is – that ability to make real change in real people’s lives.”

Ms Ismail is the eldest of four children in a family which migrated from England in 1988.  She came to Melbourne in 2009 seeking arts, culture and diversity.

“As a young, gay person growing up in Brisbane, I had some unpleasant experiences and I was looking for a community that was more welcoming of me,” she said.

Ms Ismail admitted she did not know the specific local issues within her diverse electorate.

“I’m in a listening phase,” she said. “I’m getting around to as many people as I can and finding out that is a concern to them.  It’s good to know what people want before starting to talk about their issues.”

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