A publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne


Wanted: An MP who can deliver a good life without trashing the planet

Permaculturist and mother of four Delldint Fleming typically votes Green, but says this time around it’s all about the candidate, not the party. Matilda Finn continues our special election series Chisholm’s Choice, a collaboration between The Citizen and Crikey.com.au.

Wanted: An MP who can deliver a good life without trashing the planet

"I want someone who’s there for the values of the things that matter rather than the power and the politics and scoring points off each other. I’m so looking for change. It’s about bloody time": Delldint Fleming at the free food stall outside her Blackburn share house.

Words by Matilda Finn

After a 15 minute drive to find the nearest reception, Delldint Fleming phones into our Zoom call from bushland in central Victoria. Beaming with enthusiasm, she says that she’s a volunteer cook at the Wild by Nature Camp.

As Fleming explains it, the camp’s purpose is “to create a village atmosphere for families, so parents and children can immerse themselves in nature in a way where everyone is looked after and supported”.

Sustainable living, social justice and the preservation of natural resources; these are the themes and threads that run through Fleming’s life and will determine who gets her vote on May 21.

The 54-year-old single mother of four lives her values. A ‘Food is Free’ shelf outside her Blackburn share house is piled high with fruit and veg, loaves of bread, pantry items all there for the taking. Locals leave leftover food for anyone to use and enjoy. The idea is to mitigate food waste, as well as to care for those in need.

Fleming teaches and practices permaculture. At face value it’s about sustainable, harmonious agriculture and gardening but she sees it as something richer, a design for living that connects everything from politics and finance to food and water in one harmonious system.

“It’s about everything we need to have a good life but how to do that without trashing the planet.”

It’s unsurprising to learn that she typically votes Greens. Without the buffer systems and safeguards nature provides, “everything goes to shit and we’re starting to suffer the effects of that now,” she says. “The natural environment is where we get all our resources from, every single thing that we use comes from nature.”

But this time, her vote is no longer a sure thing. She’s firmly focused on the calibre of the individual candidate, rather than the party they represent. Fleming is demanding action.

“Whether they’re a party member, or an independent, doesn’t matter to me. I want someone who’s there for the values of the things that matter rather than the power and the politics and scoring points off each other. I’m so looking for change. It’s about bloody time.”

Fleming is disappointed in Chisholm’s sitting member, Gladys Liu, for “consistently voting against everything to do with fast tracking strategies to cope with global warming and climate crisis”.

She feels let down by decisions which have caused irreversible damage to nature in the Chisholm electorate — famous for its natural reserves — and across Victoria. When she moved to leafy Blackburn she was amazed by the wildlife that still inhabited the area, and is dismayed at the toll increasing development is taking. She recently protested the removal of an old growth tree and her complaint was passed from one local authority to the next without result.

The combination of her ADHD diagnosis and being on the autism spectrum, she says, makes it hard for her to maintain cycles of fruitless correspondence, leaving her more disheartened and concerned for the environment.

Fleming wants to see a shift in focus in Australia’s next government, from big businesses to the little guy. “Corporations have so much power …. the big business end of town [is] swaying politics.

“It’s often the same people or the same companies getting richer and richer [whereas] at the bottom end, people are [struggling more].”

The inequity is evident at her free food shelf, where she talks with locals who have to choose between doctors’ bills or groceries.

Few politicians go to the polls advocating higher taxes, but Fleming would be happy to see policies that required wealthy people pay more to help those in need. Adding dental health care to Medicare would be a good start, she says.

This election cycle, Fleming wishes more voters would seize the opportunity to think about the politics and policies that will deliver what they want.

“We all need to ring them up, and hassle them, and write letters, and show up and make our voices known,” she says.

“I don’t think it’s enough anymore to wish that somebody else would do it.”

This continues our special election series talking to voters in the hyper-marginal suburban seat of Chisholm, in Melbourne’s southeast. The Chisholm’s Choice series is a collaboration between The Citizen and Crikey.com. See the Crikey series here.

About The Citizen

THE CITIZEN is a publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. It has several aims. Foremost, it is a teaching tool that showcases the work of the students in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism and Master of International Journalism programs, giving them real-world experience in working for publication and to deadline. Find out more →

Winner — BEST PUBLICATION 2016 Ossie Awards