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Hetty Johnston refuses to take the easy option

23 April, 2019

Hetty Johnston could be forgiven for putting her feet up.

She’s fought and won environmental battles against governments. She’s helped take down a governor-general and spent more than two decades immersed in the heartbreaking world of child sex abuse. She’s sacrificed innumerable hours with her own family to wage a war for people she’ll never even meet.

If anyone’s earned a break it’s her – but instead she’s working night and day to become a Federal Senator.

“Because enough is enough,” Ms Johnston says when asked what motivates a 60-year-old grandmother to run as an independent Senate candidate in the Federal election.

“I’ve had enough of politicians lying to my face. I’ve had enough of the pathetic games the Government and Opposition play. I’ve had enough of the deceit and distractions.

“For 22 years I’ve given everything to making Australia the safest country in the world to raise a child and while I’ve had wins along the way, there is still so far to go.

“I’ve achieved as much as I can outside of the political tent. Now it’s time for me to walk the same corridors our politicians and hold them accountable for the words they say and the decisions they make.”

Ms Johnston has a resume to rival any Senate candidate – a Member of the Order of Australia, the 2015 Australian of the Year for Queensland, an Australian Businesswoman’s ‘Hall of Fame’ appointee and judged one of Queensland’s 100 Most Influential People in 2018.

However, it was being a devastated mother that set her on a path has seen her become one of the country’s most recognised and cherished community advocates.

“I would give anything for daughter not to have suffered as she did but we can’t change the past,” Ms Johnston says of the sexual harm inflicted by her seven-year-old’s paternal grandfather that inspired her to found child protection organisation Bravehearts in 1997.

“What we can try to change is the future and I’m immensely proud of the number of young lives we’ve been able to positively impact during the past 22 years.

“I had nowhere to turn when my daughter so bravely disclosed what had happened to her. That is no longer the case because of what we have created at Bravehearts.”

As passionate as advocates come, Ms Johnston has been a constant thorn in the side of prominent figures since her first public campaign in the mid-1990s.

Enraged at a broken promise not to build a toll road through South-East Queensland suburbs, forests and koala habitat, she led a successful community campaign against the state government that not only stopped the plan in its tracks but ultimately resulted in the ALP being voted out of office.

A short stint as the state leader of the then Australian Democrats followed before the worst moment of her life led to the birth of what has become her greatest legacy.

“Child protection will always be my number one priority and I guarantee Queenslanders that a vote for me is a vote for their children,” said Ms Johnston, who instigated a campaign in the early 2000s that saw Peter Hollingworth resign as Australia’s governor-general for failing to deal appropriately with child sex abuse claims while archbishop of Brisbane.

“I’ve never backed down from a fight and that would remain the case in the Senate, especially when it comes to my push for a Royal Commission into the family law system.

“I’m sick of prime ministers and opposition leaders telling me they know the crisis facing our children because of this broken system but failing to deliver the one legal instrument that will help fix it.

“As a parent and grandparent, I can’t understand how any adult, let alone the prime minister, can know what they know and not act. If they’re sick of hearing from me now about this issue, imagine how they will feel when they can’t avoid my presence in Federal Parliament.”

Asked for her views on other societal issues, Ms Johnston jumps at the chance to address any concerns she’s a one-issue candidate.

“I have achieved so much in the child protection field but I take just as much pride in what I’ve accomplished both before and after establishing Bravehearts,” she said.

“I’ve run national and state companies, owned two small businesses and taken what essentially began life as a one-woman operation and grown it to become Australia’s leading organisation in this space.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m incredibly passionate about any issue that affects the wellbeing of my fellow community members, be it the environment, health or cost of living.

“I have policies addressing those and other issues and look forward to working with like-minded candidates and politicians with a proven track record of integrity to deliver the change our country needs.”

A sure sign of Ms Johnston’s commitment to her bid for Canberra came last month when she stood down as chairperson of Bravehearts to pursue her campaign. The very fact she could even reinforced her credentials for the job she’s asking Queenslanders to hand her.

“I may have founded Bravehearts but it has never been just about me,” she said.

“I have developed an organisation and a team that will continue to deliver for decades to come and that’s just as well because it means I can now pursue the seat in the Federal Senate that I believe will allow me to inspire even greater change for the community I love so much.”


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