Gary Potts worries that when he asks his daughters, aged 28, 23 and 20, who the current councillors are, they can’t name them.
“These are the people representing our city and my personal view is that they should be known to everybody,’’ says the 47 year old running in Saturday’s byelection under the Totally Locally Committed banner.
“Does that mean they’re not out in the community enough?
“I asked it at the last election, and the one before that, and I got the same answer, which tells me, no, we’re not out in the community enough,’’ he says.
“Yes, we see the mayor in the media, he’s representing our city, but where is everybody else, why aren’t they known.’’
There are exceptions.
“If I asked my daughters the same thing previously, Fred Borg’s name came up,’’ he says.
“Because he was out in the community, and that’s the mentorship I’ve been under, and that’s what I intend to do if I get elected.’’
The byelection this Saturday, March 18, was caused by the death of that mentor, Councillor Fred Borg, just before Christmas last year.
Potts, who works for the Department of Education, first met Fred Borg through the 24 Hour Fight Against Cancer Macarthur fundraiser.
“Before that Fred had been a supplier of footy jerseys so we knew the name Fred Borg,’’ Potts said.
“In 2012 I had a desire to be a councillor – I always had an interest in politics – and decided we needed Indigenous representation on council.
“And as you know our community is one of the largest Aboriginal populations in Australia, and we’re not represented in the council chamber,’’ he said.
“Apart from that it was a desire to make a difference.
“I felt I was experienced enough, and Fred mentored me through that 2012 campaign.
“We preferenced each other, and in a way I played a part in Darcy Lound getting elected,’’ Potts said.
“So leading up to [council elections] September last year Fred asked me to join the team, which I did.
“He slotted me in at number three, which was nice of him to do, but again it was a mentoring phase for me and learning more what is involved, what does it take to be a councillor, how are you going to be effective if you’re independent.
He is currently the chairman of KARI, one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal children’s services, and director of the Western Suburbs District Junior Rugby League.
Potts grew up in Minto, where he moved with his mum in 1978.
“I may not look like your stereotypical Indigenous person but I certainly am an Aboriginal person,’’ he says.
“My mob’s from Parkes, my grandmother moved to Sydney in the 1960s and I was born in Parramatta,’’ says Potts.
“I like the fact that I can say [about my Aboriginality] it’s here in my heart; I believe in it,’’ he says placing his palm on his heart.
“I am accepted by my community as being an Aboriginal, and I have been endorsed by [local Aboriginal elder] Uncle Ivan.
“In Ivan’s words: It’s time for Indigenous representation,’’ Potts said.
What he would like to see is indigenous issues being addressed all the time by council.
“It’s about being more inclusive, and it should be on the agenda all year round, not just a couple of times with NAIDOC and the Appin Massacre memorial, as good as these are every year,’’ he says.
“We need a voice.
“I think our community are ready for it, we are telling the people we are educated, we are experienced.
“I have worked very hard to get to where I am today, nothing’s been handed to me, I raised my family and I’ve put in countless hours of volunteer work in this community.’’
Don’t get the idea Gary Potts wants to get elected just on a single issue of representing indigenous interests.
Far from it.
While he wants to make a difference to his people too if he gets elected, Potts is standing as the candidate who is offering the people of Campbelltown maturity and experience for council.
The other two candidates are aged just 23 and 25.
“After 20 years working in frontline services, seeing the level of expectation from both the Indigenous and the wider community, I am used to it and I know how to handle it,’’ says Potts.
Just like his mentor, Gary Potts believes that the only growth of Campbelltown he can support is one that comes with sufficient infrastructure.
“Some days it can take me 40 minutes to get to Campbelltown, that’s ridiculous, that’s a real warning sign that if we keep developing without the proper infrastructure that 40 minutes becomes an hour, and who’s going to go to Campbelltown if it’s like that,’’ he says.
“You don’t want to be pushing people out of our community because it’s so busy.
“Growth’s got to be done properly, but you need to be able to have a voice and be able to stand up in the chamber and debate it
“I think I’ve got the skills to do that, to say, what we decide today will be here for generations.
“And we need to involve the community as much as we can.’’
Potts is also strong on another issue his mentor was passionate about: the protection of Campbelltown’s most prominent physical feature, the Scenic Hills.
“With careful planning we can have that as well as what we expect in terms of growth,’’ he said.
Potts is already a grandfather of one little girl, but “a couple of weeks after the byelection I will have my first grandson’’.
You can see the pride Gary Potts has in his family when he starts talking about them.
“My wife, my family, are my biggest supporters,’’ he says.
“Before I got involved in this campaign I sat down with my family and said, this is what I want to do, will you support me, and they are 100 percent behind me.
“My daughter is seven and a half months pregnant and she is out walking the streets putting election pamphlets in people’s letterboxes.
“As a dad you can see you’ve had an effect on your children because they’re so proud of what he is trying to achieve,’’ Potts said.
As for Fred Borg, he says: “I hope he’s looking down on me saying, Gary, I’m proud of you.’’