Former Vinnies CEO hopes to bridge a gap for those in need

By Catherine Sheehan

Former CEO of St Vincent de Paul Tasmania, Lara Alexander, was motivated to move from the not-for-profit sector into state politics, by her desire to bridge the gap between government policy and the delivery of support services to those in need.

“You get to a point in life where, through your work, you think, OK, can I actually make a difference in terms of covering where I feel there’s a gap?” said Ms Alexander, the new Liberal Member for Bass.

“The gap has been between how policy is formulated, generally by the state or federal government, and the link back to stakeholders.”

“If I could bring all that knowledge, and I see myself as a conduit between those services that deliver important supports to the community, and the government side, which is the policy and strategy formulation, then I think that will be a win-win situation, to have a bridge that is a constant communicator between the two sides.”

Ms Alexander said she was “excited” to have the additional responsibility of being the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for State Development, Construction and Housing.

“That aligns very much with my passion to continue to work with all the stakeholders, to help improve issues around homelessness and housing. That’s a passion of mine, and that’s probably where I’ll be very keen to continue working in that space.”

Born in Romania, Ms Alexander migrated to Australia in 1998 and has worked for St John’s Ambulance and the Cancer Council.

After working as CEO of Vinnie’s in Tasmania from 2018 until 2021, Ms Alexander was elected to the seat of Bass after incumbent Member Sarah Courtney resigned in February this year.

She was sworn in on 1 March and in her Maiden Speech spoke of her background, growing up under a communist regime in Romania.

“What was also missing was any sense that you had a right to participate or have a say in the political process,” Ms Alexander said in her inaugural speech on 8 March.

“Communist regimes are not really into customer feedback. You never had a sense that when you voted for that one candidate you were actually helping to shape your own, or your country’s future.”

Ms Alexander said growing up under communism gave her a greater appreciation for the democratic system of government and the freedoms it afforded. She also said her Christian faith had helped her through difficult times and given her “inner peace”.

“I experienced a different political system, that made me value democracy, made me really value freedom of speech, freedom to exercise your chosen religion.”

“I grew up with an understanding how important it is, and what a vital role church plays in people’s lives, because for people like myself, [in] a communist country like that, it was a form of defiance.”

Ms Alexander expressed concern that people of faith were increasingly being sidelined from political conversations in Australia.

“A lot of people that have come to Australia, religion is important to them… I feel that somehow their voices are not being heard as loud as everybody else, and I think freedom of choice means that I’m free to promote my religious beliefs, same as the other person should be free not to be of a religious belief, right?”

“I think in the West we are losing a little bit of focus on understanding each other and being respectful of each other.”

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