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Liberals make bid to reclaim Indi

The Victorian Liberal Party has established an office in the federal electorate of Indi, following former Liberal Member Sophie Mirabella's concession at this year's federal election.

KAITLIN THALS December 4, 2013 4:10am

Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan celebrates her election win in October.

The Victorian Liberal Party has established an office in the federal electorate of Indi just months after former Liberal Member Sophie Mirabella was knocked from her perch.

Independent Cathy McGowan’s grassroots campaign helped her claim victory of the seat in September’s federal election, following Ms Mirabella’s concession in October.

The battle for Indi made headlines across the nation.

The announcement of the new Liberal Party office on Monday came just hours before Ms McGowan’s first speech at Parliament House.

Ms McGowan said she felt proud and honoured to be surrounded by so many supporters who contributed so much to her campaign.

‘‘I feel so proud to have so many representatives from my community here with me in Canberra today,” Ms McGowan said.

‘‘We couldn’t have achieved what we did without the immense support from people all across Indi. We had door knockers, badge makers, banner makers, community organisers and a myriad of other volunteers who played a part.

‘‘Today is about Indi and being our best selves for the rest of Australia to see.’’

Ms McGowan’s supporters travelled by bus from Benalla, Wangaratta, Wodonga and beyond, to Canberra to celebrate her debut speech at Parliament House.

A sea of orange flooded the grounds as the buses pulled up.

In the independent’s address she said ‘‘not all is well’’ in Indi, stating below-average education statistics, socioeconomic disadvantage and an ongoing trend of young people leaving the region for work and study.

‘‘Other critical issues are infrastructure, access to transport, reliable telephone and internet coverage, jobs, education and health, ’’ Ms McGowan said.

A call for action last year from young people spurred on Ms McGowan and a team of backers.

‘‘They wanted a representative in parliament who would serve their electorate first, rather than a political party, and they wanted their vote to count — not to be taken for granted in a safe seat.’’

The Liberals for Indi office will be based in Wangaratta, which they say will ensure residents have a link back into government and that their concerns are being heard.

State director Damien Mantach said north-east Victoria was a crucial region for the Liberal Party.

‘‘It is appropriate for us to have an office in Indi so that members of the community can connect with us locally,’’ Mr Mantach said.

‘‘The general public will be able to access information about Abbott Government policies, contribute ideas and link up across the electorate.

‘‘Indi is very important to the Liberal Party. We have longstanding connections to this region and an ongoing commitment to supporting the north-east at both federal and state levels.’’

Local woman Karen Rourke has been appointed as field officer to engage with the community and branches on behalf of the Liberal Party.

The Liberals for Indi have started moving into their new base at 71B Ovens St, Wangaratta, and the office will officially open early next year.

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