My Story – Samantha Ratnam

People often ask me why I got involved in
politics. The truth is, I felt like I had no choice
than to become political. Even as a child, I learnt that politics really
does matter. I grew up in Sri Lanka during the civil war,
and I remember when the riots broke out in our neighbourhood. You realise that the services you have in
your local community, the decisions our decision makers make, actually makes a difference to a young kid’s life. It’s the difference between peace and war,
poverty and prosperity. My family left Sri Lanka because it wasn’t
safe, and we landed in Melbourne and had to start life again from scratch. We were able to get ahead because my siblings and I had access to great free public schools that meant that we got a great education. We had access to healthcare that meant that when my Mum got sick soon after we got here, she was able to get better. We were able to go to our public libraries
easily, it meant that we felt included rather than isolated. The Victorian community has given our family so much to support us. I wanted to give something back. So I think from an early age I knew that I
wanted do something to help change the world for the better. After high school I realised I wanted to become a social worker. I volunteered on the Collingwood Soup Van for five years, and it fundamentally changed how I saw our community. I realised that real poverty and disadvantage existed among us. When I worked with people who were homeless, I realised that the decisions made by politicians really does determine whether you have a roof over your head at night. And when I worked with migrants, people seeking asylum and refuge, I learnt that the words our politicians say really do determine whether you feel welcome in your new community and ready to start a new life. When I worked with people in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, I learnt that the decisions made by our politicians are literally a matter of life and death. Over and over, I learnt how the actions of our politicians can change our lives. But the politicians that I saw didn’t seem to represent us, or have our best interests at heart. Some of the things that we love about our
neighbourhoods and environment are being threatened by poor decisions made by other levels of
government. I realised that every one of us has to step
up if we want to see change. So I put my hand up for local government,
and got elected to council. And then, I was humbled to be elected mayor. I could see how much positive change we could create together and I wanted to do more. We have a role and responsibility in caring
for each other, that’s what makes our communities work. Together with my colleagues, we’re standing up for people in our community who need it the most. And our precious environment that has to be protected. Everyone should have the chance to enjoy a good life. We’re standing up for a future where every Victorian has equal opportunities, a decent place to call home, healthcare, a great education, a clean environment, and a safe climate for the future. I’m Samantha Ratnam, Leader of the Victorian Greens, and I’m your representative in parliament.

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