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Welcome to this fourth edition of Cockatoo – and kindest wishes for Christmas and the New Year. Whether you are in Indi or elsewhere this holiday season, I hope you have the company of friends, family, neighbours or indeed a welcoming stranger should you be far from home.

This year has been a huge year for Indi as we made Australian federal political history, becoming the first ever electorate where an Independent has succeeded an Independent as its federal Member. That says a lot about the strength of our communities and our capacity to determine our own futures.

I am so very proud to be the Member for Indi. I am committed to representing and advocating for you with honesty, respect, and a strong community voice. I am committed to working for better infrastructure, resources and outcomes in mental health, disability services, aged care and education. I am committed to a thriving rural economy with opportunities for our young people. I am advocating for a future with climate change policies that reduce our emissions, promote the environmental and economic opportunities of renewable energy, and adaptation in agriculture.

This Christmas, I hope you have fun and laughter it’s good for your health! But do keep safe over this period of high summer bushfire risk. Make sure you have your VicEmergency app loaded on your phone and a battery-operated radio close handy. Look out for your neighbours – especially the elderly and the very young.

I look forward with great energy to meeting and working with you in 2020. And keep me up to date with all that’s happening in your community.

Thank you.


Welcome to 

My new website is on-line and you can discover it here. Find out about my work for you in the electorate and in Parliament, ways you can participate on our democracy, put submissions and petitions to Parliament and its committee inquiries, read or view my speeches and media statements and subscribe to email updates and regular editions of the Cockatoo.

A few measures...

In Indi and in Parliament – since I was declared elected Independent Federal Member for Indi on June 12, 2019 – I've...
  • received 7119 emails and 719 letters
  • attended 208 meetings and events
  • made 24 speeches in the House
  • met with 11 Ministers and six shadow ministers to discuss Indi issues
  • joined five parliamentary committees
  • become co-chair of three Parliamentary Friends groups climate action, preventive health and regenerative agriculture
  • driven 24,572 kilometres – and
  • eaten 64 chocolate mint slice biscuits (most of them after Question Time...!)
Indi mental health
I'm working with Indi communities to ensure the funding commitments made by the Coalition during the 2019 election campaign are delivered. There are 16 major projects with promised funding of $112 million. One of these is at Albury Wodonga Health.

Albury Wodonga Health was recently told that promised funding of $14.5m for a much-needed new mental health rehabilitation unit and specialist clinics centre will be paid across three years from 2022-23 to 2024-25, yet it’s impossible to get capital works of this type done piecemeal over that length of time.

I have called on the Health Minister Greg Hunt to come good with the first $2.5m this financial year. At least then the first stage specialist clinics centre can get underway.
Lachlan talks about his Indi Canberra volunteer experience
Lachlan Grimwade is a young commercial law and marketing graduate who grew up in Melbourne before moving with his family to New Zealand. He has great Indi connections through his grandparents in Mansfield and took part in our Indi Canberra volunteer program in November this year. Hear what Lachlan had to say about what he discovered and if you'd like to express interest in the program please email my office.
Myrtleford P-12 College students were very welcome visitors to Parliament House on November 25, where I met them in the Marble Foyer. What a lively and curious bunch of kids – who asked great questionsI encourage Indi school communities to bring their voice to Parliament. School visits can be arranged and the wonderful Parliamentary Education Office can help students and staff to have an inspiring and fun day.
Friendly Indi
Come to Indi: Australia’s friendliest electorate! Such a fantastic place to live  innovative, engaged, respectful rural communities in Victoria's North East. Great news, ABC Australia Talks.
Indi schools secure 16 project grants

I was delighted to announce $200,000 in grants from Indi Local Schools Community Fund for 16 projects across 14 communities on December 13.

These range from $1146 for ‘books in homes’ for Wodonga’s Blackburn English Language School to $20,000 each for facility refurbishments at Yea, Wangaratta, Eskdale, Wodonga and Kiewa Valley campuses and for a school bus at Mitta Mitta. Projects have also been funded in Baddaginnie, Beechworth, Bright, Edi Upper, Everton, Kinglake, Mansfield and Tallangatta.

The grants will be used to upgrade essential infrastructure and fund, for example, a portable performing arts stage, school and community gardens and kitchens, master planning and sports court refurbishment.

I’ve met with Education Minister Tehan, where I spoke with him about the high level of interest from our school communities in the Local Schools Community Fund and that it’s over-subscribed. He’s told me that he may consider calling a second round applications. Read more about the fund here.

With Borinya Wangaratta Community Partnership student Peter Sands, business manager Carole Bruest, student Molly-Ella Wadley and acting principal Josh Hartwig at Borinya's graduation celebration on December 12, where I earlier advised Josh of the school's successful grant application.
Current inquiries –  have your say

Regional Australia
The House Select Committee on Regional Australia is inquiring into regional Australia’s development, identity, services, decentralisation, infrastructure needs and sustainability. You’ll find the inquiry terms of reference here. Submissions have closed, but the committee will be visiting Indi in May 2020. Email me at if you would like to express interest in presenting to the committee, or advised when dates of the visit are confirmed.

Faster rail
The House Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities has opened its inquiry into options for financing faster rail. Funding a business case for faster rail on the North East Albury-Melbourne line was one of the Coalition's election promises. Submissions have closed but you can find information about the inquiry here.

National Broadband Network
The Joint Standing Committee on the NBN is inquiring into NBN coverage, outages, customer and business experience and pricing. People in Eildon and Buxton have experienced significant outages and I've been able to get outage reporting and notification into the inquiry terms of reference. Submissions close January 17, 2020. Find information about the inquiry here.

Waste and recycling
The House Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources is inquiring into Australia’s waste management and recycling industries. The committee will look at opportunities to improve industrial, commercial and domestic waste management, and impediments to innovation in these sectors. Strategies to reduce waste in waterways and oceans will also be examined. Submissions close January 31, 2020. Find information about the inquiry here.

Religious freedom
Attorney General Christian Porter MP has released the Coalition Government's second exposure drafts of a package of legislation on religious freedom. The package includes a Religious Discrimination Bill, Consequential Amendments Bill, and Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill. You can review these proposals and make a submission until January 31, 2020. Find information about the package here.

I joined Winton Wetlands restoration ecologist Lisa Farnsworth and visitaton manager Tanya McAlpin at the wetlands on December 19 to congratulate them on their successful Indi Communities Environment Program application.

'Heroes in a half-shell' secure grant funding
Environment and Stronger Communities

Winton Wetlands restoration ecologist Lisa Farnsworth and visitation manager Tanya McAlpin have welcomed the news that the Wetands' application to Indi's Communities Environment Program to support turtle breeding and ecology has been successful. The $17,800 grant for creatures the pair describe as ‘heroes in a half shell’ will be used to rebuild turtle populations in the Wetlands between Wangaratta and Benalla.

“One of the true natural reflections of steady strength, turtles are the embodiment of survival,” Lisa said. "But now, a combination of human changes and environmental shifts has seen a significant decline in numbers so compelling that almost half of all turtle fauna are threatened or extinct in the wild."

Read more about Indi's successful Communities Environment Program and Stronger Communities Program projects here.

I was honoured with cross-bech colleagues Zali Steggall MP (Warringah, NSW) and Rebekha Sharkie MP (Mayo, SA) to meet Governor-General David Hurley AC DSC at Yarralumla on December 4 where the Speaker and Senate President returned what is known as the Address in Reply Parliament's response to the Governor-General's Speech presented at the opening of the 46th Parliament on July 23. We were also greeted by this pair of Minton majolica antique pottery cockatoos on the drawing room side-table.
Indi initiative
In Murrindindi and Mansfield shires this month I met Richard Thornton and Ben Lovell from the Outdoor Education Group a growing enterprise based at Eildon which last year offered challenging outdoor team-building and leadership experiences for 48,000 young people. Much of OEG's program is delivered in Indi's spectacular alpine environments (and participants use 1600 kilograms of Milo! to keep up their energy levels). I also attended the opening of the the Scobie and Claire Mackinnon Community Centre extension at Beolite Village in Mansfield and afterwards attended a lunch chaired by Sir Andrew Grimwade and community representatives. Beolite is a residential development offering independent living for older people.
Indi Christmas
Top left: Kinglake community carols on December 8 with Laura, Sue and Michelle. Top right: A perky orange cockatoo found its way onto the Christmas tree in Parliament's Members' Hall on the first day of Advent December 1. Lower left: Myrtleford's Men's Shed has been crafting and painting these wonderful Christmas characters for a number of years, raising funds by hiring them to stores and offices and this cheery chap has been greeting callers in my Wangaratta electorate office. Lower right: I so enjoyed meeting the Bonnie Doon Community Centre committee members on December 17 an inspiring force for good in this small, resilient community. Merry Christmas!
My Indi fruit cake

This recipe is a favourite and one I've adapted from family, a skilled professional cook and additions of local produce, including Joan Simms' marmalade made with McGowan Seville oranges, and Rutherglen muscat.

750 kg mixed dried fruit 
250g dried currants
1/2 cup red glace cherries, halved
½ cup finely sliced crystallised ginger 
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
200g butter, chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
1 tablespoon of Joan Simms' Beechworth marmalade – if you can find some!
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
About 1 cup Rutherglen muscat 
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup blanched macadamias

Step 1: Place dried fruit, cherries, dates, sugar, butter, orange rind, orange juice, mixed spice, bicarbonate of soda and 3/4 cup Rutherglen muscat in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a bowl. Cool completely.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Grease a 6cm-deep, 22cm (base) round cake pan. Line with 3 layers of baking and brown paper, leaving a 5cm overhang.

Step 3: Add egg to dried fruit mixture. Stir until just combined. Sift flour over mixture. Stir to combine. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Smooth surface. Tap pan on bench top to settle mixture. Arrange macadamias around edge of mixture. Bake between 3 hours and 3 hours 30 minutes, covering with foil after 2 hours, or until a skewer into the centre comes out clean. Drizzle over remaining muscat. Allow to cool then remove from tin and serve.

Happy new year!
Indi's Wangaratta and Wodonga electorate offices will re-open on January 6, 2020.
Contact me
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Dr Helen Haines MP
Independent Federal Member for Indi
117 Murphy Street, Wangaratta VIC 3677
79 High Street, Wodonga VIC 3690
T 03 5721 7077 Wangaratta
T 02 6024 6284 Wodonga
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Copyright © Dr Helen Haines MP, Independent Federal Member for Indi
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