Nina Taylor, the upper house member for the Southern Metropolitan Region is diving into the lower house, the Legislative Assembly. That’s where the real politics happen. It is where policies are made and voted on.
Taylor is competing for Martin Foley’s seat of Albert Park. Foley, the minister for health who stepped into the breech to manage Victoria’s Covid response, after Jenny Mikakos’ resignation from the portfolio, is retiring. Foley has endorsed Taylor as Labor’s next candidate.
With his favour and purpose, Taylor is flat-out on the hustings, pressing the flesh and talking to her constituents. Her focus, no doubt, is to thwart the encroachment of the Greens.
“”I want those candid conversations. I have been knocking doors, making calls, I am engaging with as many constituents as possible, the most honest conversation you’ll ever have is by talking to people”” she tells Neos Kosmos.
Taylor is aware of the shifting demography in Albert Park, the once working-class Greek migrant area now a gentrified hub of professionals. Houses that cost $20,000 in the 1970s go for nothing short of $3 million if you’re lucky. Taylor is facing the Greens who turned it into a tight competition in the last federal election, as they seduced the new middle-classes who colonised the electorate.
“It’s a democracy” she says, “anyone’s entitled to put their hand up, we can’t presume what people are thinking or feeling, I go out and have important conversations and listen with humility – I know I need to earn every vote.”
Taylor is conscious of the way gentrification hides real poverty.
“I’m reminded of the reality of poverty daily, and this is why there is a strong impetus in our government to actually build affordable housing.”
“We have 6300 houses built, or under construction, there are people that don’t have shelter and it’s not an acceptable way for them to live.”
Taylor is ardent about engaging with the Greeks.
“I’m glad we have a strong Greek community, including second and third generations. There’s still pockets where you see strong cultural representation, and continuing language.”
Her effervescent manner hides a polymath, she has studied both law and arts, and has a postgraduate diploma of education. She also worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 12 years.
“A significant focus of mine was on chronic diseases, especially diabetes which impact on people. The critical element is communication, if people don’t get the right information, they may not get the right treatment early enough.”
If a stack of degrees weren’t enough Taylor is an overachiever, she speaks German, French and even some Swedish, and is now trying to learn Greek.
“I know a smattering of Greek would love to know more – a second and even third language is not just about words, language is a deep, it can define culture, it is history, and racism can be perpetuated by people not understanding the profound depth of communicating to others in a language that has deep meaning to them.”
The educator knows that learning another language, “helps the brain to expand, there are cognitive benefits from learning more than one language.”
Taylor defers to the minister for education but says she will advocate for Greek language at state schools.
“It’s important and it makes sense with such a significant Greek population in Melbourne, that we should have Modern Greek, where we can, in state schools.”
She re-emphasises that “the education minister would want to have a look into the pragmatics of delivery.”
Taylor is also a lover of the arts, and specifically multicultural festivals, which she says are important.
“They bring people together and foster greater understanding within and across different cultures.”
Taylor says culturally diverse festivals “provide an opportunity for people to share language, music, dance, cuisines and forms of human expression.”
Festivals, like Antipodes, she says inspire younger generations to continue traditions.
“Multicultural festivals honour the history and the sacrifices of those who took huge risks and migrated in previous generations, so as to give new generations opportunities and a hopeful future.”
Nina Taylor is laser focused on holding a once traditional Labor seat by building a wall of trust through deep listening.