At only 26 years old Tamara Ryan is the youngest candidate standing for the electorate of Eden-Monaro, and outside politics she's a student nearing the end of her law degree. She is also a mentor to students in her local community in the Bega Valley.
Ryan has worked in the law for eight years and will soon gain admission as a solicitor once she graduates. She has completed a TAFE course in Aboriginal Studies and has a Bachelor of Arts in politics and history from the University of Sydney. Ryan’s passion for Aboriginal causes is clear as we meet for an interview at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, after her participation in the Frontier Wars Remembrance March.
Ryan says she wants to represent the Eden-Monaro electorate in order to get people “talking about important issues like Aboriginal self determination … and to stand up for marginalised voices generally, single mum working class families, like the one I came from, and young people and just voices that aren’t represented by the other parties, I guess, as in the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) community and just generally push for change.”
Ryan’s involvement in politics was shaped by her upbringing in a working class, single mum family. She says she was always “preoccupied with the inequalities in society and polarization of wealth and then just recently, I guess, just found out, oh I can have a voice and have a say in trying to remedy that.”
She says she joined the Greens because she realised that “politics should be about ordinary people having a say and directing how we’re governed and kind of grassroots bottom-up sort of political activism is the most important thing and that’s what the Greens stand for.”
Ryan may be younger than most politicians but believes her youth enables her to relate to the struggles of students and young people. Her passion also belies media commentary about the apathy of modern youth, instead pointing to the capacity of young people to be a voice for change.
“Sometimes it’s questioned about our younger age and getting into politics and I guess I like to say when you look at the politicians in Question Time and see how they’re behaving it more comes down to maturity and sound policy than age,” she says.
If elected, Ryan says her main aims will be: “Funding Gonski and ensuring it’s especially targeted towards public schools with a special emphasis on funding for children with disabilities… and protecting free public health care, including dental care in that. So education and health care are really important. But also proper leadership on climate change, so putting more funding into solar and wind energy across Eden-Monaro like you see at the Royalla Solar Farm just south of Canberra, creating more job opportunities for people with that, but also action on climate change and then the fourth thing is advocating strongly for refugees and the closure of offshore detention centres.”
The message Ryan wants to give the residents of the Eden-Monaro electorate is to look beyond the shouting matches between the major parties' political leaders and research the policies of the range of parties. Look into the issues that affect you and find out which party best represents you, she says.