After a year in the job she never expected to have, Murray-Wellington MP Robyn Clarke has set her sights on fixing local infrastructure and working on a few small, but important projects she hopes will give locals pride and confidence in their community.
Speaking in the wake of the first anniversary of her shock election win, when she toppled long-serving Liberal MP Murray Cowper, Ms Clarke reflected on the challenges of office and the state’s tight budget situation.
She said adjusting to the job had been overwhelming at first, especially as she was the first woman to hold the seat and only the second Labor politician.
“It’s like being the donkey in the Melbourne Cup, with everyone saying you’re never going to win, but then you come up from the rear, out from wide, and you’ve won the race,” she said.
“I’m an everyday person. I’m a mum, I’m a wife, I’m just an everyday person off the street.”
To adjust, Ms Clarke said she met as many community groups and constituents face-to-face as possible.
After taking time to understand the challenges of her community, she would focus on new infrastructure for Pinjarra Senior High School, which was leasing gym space from Murray Leisure Centre and needed an upgrade.
She was also working with Mandurah MP David Templeman on finding a way Murray Districts Hospital could be improved.
“I understand there’s no money in the budget, but I will be pushing forward to try to achieve for the school,” she said.
Ms Clarke said she had discussed the role Murray Districts Hospital could play in alleviating pressure on Peel Health Campus with Health Minister Roger Cook.
“We’re not saying it’s going to be a fully functional hospital again, because it’s just too old and to do that you’d need to demolish it and rebuild it, but it can play a major part in the region as a satellite hospital to Peel Health Campus,” she said.
But with a constrained state budget, when there wasn’t money to lavish on election commitments, she said she would also focus on small projects that meant a lot to people.
Soon after her election, Ms Clarke said she had arranged for a Cookernup town sign on South West Highway and a drop in the town’s speed limit.
“Now, it might be little, but to that community, it was the best thing that ever happened to them,” the MP said.
“It’s about what it makes a community feel and if I can do small things like that, that are achievable, then I will chip away and get those things done, because that means more to a community than a million dollar building or a massive road.”