Alice Barnes, the Greens candidate for the marginal Labor seat of Ballarat, has her sights set on a green future.
“I figure it’s really unlikely I’m going to win this time,” she said, “but I see my role as part of a longer game plan.”
Barnes first ran as a candidate for the Greens in the 2014 Victorian state election, where she collected 10% of the primary vote in the marginal Ballarat division of Wendouree.
“We raised the primary vote and that was the aim of our campaign,” she said.
Barnes, 32, was born in Ballarat and has spent most of her life in the regional Victorian city. She was educated as a secondary teacher in Melbourne and taught there before travelling overseas to teach in Thailand, the UK, Mexico and Dubai.
She returned to Ballarat two years ago, where she teaches history as an Education Officer at Sovereign Hill, Ballarat’s famous historic tourist attraction.
“I get to do the fun end of teaching. I inspire them to be interested in history, and of course I do it in costume.”
But it was the issue of climate change that propelled her into political campaigning. “Living overseas and enjoying travelling around the world, the climate crisis just kept weighing on me heavier and heavier.
“I thought, I can’t just go off and have fun, I actually need to play a role in tackling this,” she said. “So I decided to come home and get involved in local politics.”
She may have inherited her political engagement from her father, John, who was mayor of Ballarat between 2004 and 2005. He is Alice’s campaign manager.
“You hope that your kids will get engaged with their communities and she didn’t hesitate and good on her,” he said.
“But the reality is that in this electorate she isn’t going to get elected, so she has to temper her enthusiasm.”
The focus of Barnes’ campaign and the issues she nominates all stem from the central concern of climate change. She lists public transport and renewable energy investment as the major issues she’ll be attempting to convince voters of their importance.
“There are a whole lot of people in Ballarat who just care about paying the mortgage and feeding their kids,” she said
“I don’t get angry at people who aren’t as engaged, or aren’t as concerned or don’t understand the issues like I do, because most people are just trying to eek out a living.”
Barnes believes she understands the concerns of 'ordinary' voters and learned a lot during the 2014 Victorian election campaign. “I door-knocked every Saturday for eight months, for two hours each time,” she said.
“When you actually confront someone face to face they’re not going to go ‘stupid Greenies’, they’ll actually be civil and courteous and listen to you, and you listen to them.”
Ballarat small business owner Marty Pearce says he is “definitely” concerned about climate change, but it’s the day-to-day financial realities that influence his vote.
“Whoever can help the average Australian pay their bills and get their kids get to school is much more beneficial than someone that’s going to save the world,” he said.
The possible relative success of the Greens in metropolitan Melbourne electorates - in Melbourne, Batman, Wills and Higgins - is inspiring Barnes to have aspirations beyond this year’s election.
“The impact of those Greens campaigns that actually do win or come close to winning does have a ripple effect for us too.” she says.
“It’s part of a bigger plan to eventually turn Ballarat Green.”
Barnes may have to be very patient to see this dream come true. At the 2013 campaign the Greens candidate for Ballarat Stephanie Hodgins-May won just 9.5% of the primary vote.
In comparison, in the inner-Melbourne seat of Batman, the Greens haven't polled that low since 1998 (six federal elections ago), when their primary vote was 11.58%.