Huon News: Wheeling about the hustings

Amanda Richter is no stranger to publicity, having won the Tasmanian Barnardos Mother of the Year title in 2016, and now she is looking to take on another public role, running for councillor in the upcoming Huon Valley Council local government elections as a voice for those who live with a disability.

Amanda was born with spina bifida and has lived in a wheelchair her entire life, she is familiar with the difficulties faced by those with a disability, having overcome all the odds, first simply to survive her early days, and then to marry and raise a family.

She says there have been many difficulties to overcome throughout her days at school, while looking for a job and as a parent, and she wants to try and make living in the Huon Valley easier for others who are in her situation.

“The other day I went into the bank, and the counters are really high, for someone like me in a wheelchair, the staff can’t see me, people don’t think about how difficult everyday life is for people with a disability,” said Amanda.

Amanda said she wants to raise awareness within the Huon Valley businesses and community, and to try to make some changes that will make life in the Huon Valley more inclusive for those with a disability.

“I went to Sydney in 2016 and I cried every single day I was there, because it wasn’t wheelchair accessible, I was pregnant, and it was just all too much,” said Amanda.

“I was thinking Darling Harbour should be wheelchair accessible, and its not.

“When I came home I realised that the Huon Valley is not what it could be either.

“I’ve gone round to some of the businesses in the Huon Valley and I’ve had to bring my husband with me because I can’t get inside.

“Even to introduce myself as a candidate has been hard, which reflects badly on the Huon Valley.”

Amanda said that she knows that she can’t single handedly change the planning laws, or transform the Huon Valley, but she wants to be there when decisions are made so that she can make the other councillors around the table aware of accessibility issues that they might not otherwise consider.

“I want to show people, just because we’re the most southern place in Tasmania, we can step up and be one of the best at integration, the best at things that make our community as a whole better,” she said.

Amanda is not just defined by her wheelchair, she is the daughter of El Dennison who owned and operated El’s Fashions in Huonville for almost 20 years and Amanda said this has given her a good understanding of what issues and obstacles there are facing small business in the Huon Valley.

“I was there from day one, I know what it’s like to start a small business in the Huon Valley,” said Amanda.

“It is very hard, council in the past has made it hard.”

Amanda said that she believes that car parking is the number one issue for small businesses, whether it be the lack of car parking in the central business district of Huonville, or the cost of car parking spaces for start up businesses, Amanda said she would like to see council address these issues.

She also believes that communication is the key to keeping the community engaged.

She said there are many business owners and working families who cannot make it along to council meetings, but they are still important members of the community who should have a say in how the municipality is run.

“We all live here, we all need to know what’s going on, not just the nine people who are sitting in the council meetings, we need to get out there,” said Amanda.

“It doesn’t take long to go and visit a business, to tell them this is what’s happening, this is what we’re talking about.

“Definitely, I want to take some time out from being a mother and go and visit some of the businesses in the Huon Valley.”

Amanda said that she doesn’t see a need for amalgamation with Kingborough Council at present.

“I think that we should be our own community, who knows what will happen 10 or 20 years down the track, but I definitely think in the next four to eight years we’re good on our own,” she said.

Amanda’s children are still young, with her son only two years old, but she said this will not hinder her political ambitions.

“I’ve got a lot of support from my mother and my husband, so I do have that support with babysitting, and if I need any extra hands for campaigning,” said Amanda.

“And my 10 year old can help as well, she’s excited, she can’t wait to get out there and help, she keeps saying to me she wishes she was 18 so she can vote for me.”

Amanda said that, if she is successful in this election, she hopes that it will be just the beginning of her political career.

“My husband jokes and says maybe one day Amanda can be prime minister,” she laughs.

“Let me work for the Huon Valley for a few years if I can, and then who knows what is going to happen!”

(This article was first published in the Huon News, Franklin TAS.)

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