As a candidate standing for election, you are given plenty of advice about what to say or not say.

But I believe if you want to stand for public office, you should express clearly what motivates you, what concerns you and what is in your heart.

Many people know that politics has coloured my family history – and ask why, knowing how thankless and at times brutal politics can be, I choose to get involved.

And it’s true – politics has not always been my calling.

At university I studied philosophy, writing my thesis on the anguish of choice; the struggle each of us have to construct our values and beliefs, shaped by our experiences and interactions.

At life-defining decisions (like choosing to enter politics) I believe you make a choice about being true to who you are as well as who you will be.

For me, that truth comes down to one thing – standing up and fighting for our community, for our shared values and for the future that I will leave to my daughter and all those who come next.

It concerns me that much of politics today is played out around identity politics, virtue signalling and ideological grandstanding. While some minor Parties behave in this way, I choose not to.

One of the pillars of our democracy is that Members of Parliament represent their whole electorate. You are elected to listen to and deliver equally to those who voted for you and those who did not.

Real leadership is about addressing our differences and bringing us together with empathy and compassion to make that future happen.

In today’s world of digital news and social media, it is far easier and seems more important to appear as though you care rather than truly caring. The hard work is in taking action to address a problem – not just with words, memes or bumper stickers.

I was privileged to have worked with the late Minister and former Member for Northcote Fiona Richardson on family violence reform in this state. Fiona spent the last three years of her life negotiating, pushing and demanding that things change for women and children. She did not take no for an answer. She did not grandstand. She just got on with it.

On the hustings in Northcote I’m often asked what the difference is between the Labor Party and the Greens Political Party. That question always astounds me because for me the difference is stark.

Labor just gets on with it.

And we’ve been getting on with it long before the Greens began taking credit for all manner of Labor achievements.

It was a Labor Government that delivered Australia’s first state based Renewable Energy Target Scheme and large-scale wind farms – despite obstruction from the Greens.

Labor also got on with countless other reforms that make life fairer for our community: Medicare, superannuation, paid parental leave, accessible university, workers rights and renewable energy.

More recently the Andrews Labor Government has got on with delivering landmark reforms like free TAFE, solar homes, rental fairness, nurse to patient ratios, banning fracking and cracking down on wage theft.

This progress has continued at the same time as record infrastructure spending, the creation of 390,000 jobs and the removal of dangerous level crossings – all while keeping the budget in surplus.

Our next big challenge, and one that I hope to fight for from within a re-elected Andrews government, is mental health. In particular youth mental health and working to prevent the causes of so many young people tragically taking their own lives.

This is a priority for me and it should be a priority for all of us. Just like family violence reform, it will be difficult, but we must get on with it.

The Royal Commission into Mental Health committed by the Andrews Government is a significant first step to unravelling this complex challenge.

I truly respect the work of Patrick McGorry in this space and look forward to hearing him speak at our mental health forum on the 8th November. We must listen to his words and others like him, take heart and act on his advice.

Politics should not just be about identity, it should not just be about symbolism. It should be about character, values and most importantly – action.

I have been around politics long enough to know that talk is easy – travelling the difficult path to getting things done is hard.

It’s what distinguished Fiona Richardson as a Minister and as the Member for Northcote, it’s what distinguishes the Andrew’s Government in this election, and it’s what drives me.

* Kat Theophanous is the ALP candidate for the State seat of Northcote. She can be contacted on Facebook.