30 May 2022

Defending his school inspires Johnathan Davis' passionate political career

| Lottie Twyford
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Johnathan Davis

ACT Greens MLA Johnathan Davis first became involved with politics when the ACT Government proposed shutting his school. Photo: ACT Government.

When Johnathan Davis was 15, politics knocked on his door.

More specifically, it knocked on the door of his school.

In 2006, when Mr Davis was a student at Kambah High School where the current Namadgi School sits, the then-Stanhope Labor majority government proposed the closure of 39 ACT public schools. It included Kambah.

At home, Mr Davis admits growing up wasn’t easy. He lived in public housing, helped raise his siblings, cared for someone close to him with a drug dependency, and fell through the cracks of primary school.

But at Kambah, all this changed. Thanks to the support of his teachers and peers Mr Davis was able to catch up on schooling, make connections and friends.

Coming out as gay and coping with a family breakdown made the journey harder for the strong-willed teenager. By year 9, he had moved out of home and was couch-surfing with friends.

So school became his safe place and the campaign to keep it succeeded as Mr Davis became one of the fiercest and loudest voices of support.

Namadgi School

The campaign to keep a school at Kambah High succeeded. It’s now the site of Namadgi School. Photo: File.

His campaigning exposed Mr Davis to the world of politics, leading him to do work experience with then-Liberal members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) Brendan Smyth and Steve Pratt.

“Unsurprisingly, the Liberal MLAs loved me because I was very critical of the government… surprise, surprise,”he says.

But it pushed him in a different direction – literally down the corridor and around the corner – to the late MLA Dr Deb Foskey, the only Greens member of the assembly. On his last day of work experience, he signed to join the party.

“It appeared to me she and her office were motivated entirely by making the good thing happen,” he says. “Not the glory that comes from making it happen, but just the good thing happen.”

Deb Foskey with Greens sign

Longtime Greens political candidate and campaigner, the late Dr Deb Foskey. Photo: Supplied.

But no-one’s political journey is linear. Mr Davis dropped out of school at 16, joining full-time work in real estate for the next 12 years.

His decision to leave school wasn’t because he didn’t value education, but because he was looking for economic security he’d never enjoyed.

Mr Davis first ran for the Greens in the 2012 ACT election and again in 2016. He also ran as the party’s 2019 federal candidate for Bean.

He knows life would be easier in real estate. “But I care about too many things and I felt compelled to do this,” he says.

The lifetime Tuggeranong resident has also worked multiple jobs at the Hyperdome, including cleaning out the cinnamon donut machine at Donut King.

“Like most of Canberra, my community is youthful, ambitious for themselves and the rest of the city. They care about the climate crisis, they care about economic inequality and issues of social justice.”

Having been on both sides of housing – as a real estate agent and one who’s experienced homelessness – Mr Davis is also passionate about addressing the crisis and its rising inequality.

READ ALSO The story of Environa: the suburb that never made it

And he’s a strong believer in doing politics differently – he’s already achieved his commitment of being the first MLA to open an electorate office.

He’s adamant ACT politicians need to spend more time in their communities and less time in the assembly’s ivory tower.

That’s particularly pertinent for Tuggeranong, the furthest electorate from the city.

Most of Mr Davis’ work is focused on the vibrant community he calls home. Whether it’s getting footpaths fixed for keen cyclists or sorting out Lake Tuggeranong – another’s of his passionate topics.

This drive to make a difference is what it’s all about.

“The great thing about local politics is that you can have a problem on Monday and have it fixed by Friday, and you can go out and see the change.”

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Capital Retro8:35 am 31 May 22

Never heard of him until I read this article. He is certainly unknown in north Tuggeranong.

With his strong background and difficult grounding through School closure issues, it’s such a pity he hasn’t actually done anything to address the ongoing issues with education in Tuggeranong.

Despite Worksafe shutting a Canberra school in a totally unprecedented fashion, he still showed complete and utter faith in the Education Minister and instead deserted the teachers and students. That’s proof of a politician who doesn’t live up to what he promised pre election and hold the government to account.

Yeah, got to say he’s almost invisible for the issues that people in Tuggeranong actually care about. And as a member of the government in reality, he doesn’t want to be seen to be critical on their areas of clear failing, lest it give the Liberals ammunition.

Capital Retro4:34 pm 31 May 22

Clear falling or clear failing?

You keep up the good work Jonathan. Jonathan is hardworking, engaging and a fresh face in Tuggeranong. MLAs from both sides have been hanging around in this electorate for far too long. Time for a bit of a push along and a cleanup from the leadership and membership of the major parties!

This is an absolute lie: “he’s already achieved his commitment of being the first MLA to open an electorate office”. Once a week, he has a coffee morning in Greenway, just like all the the other MLAs. He doesn’t keep his promises, and then he lies about it. Ask him the address of his electorate office and its opening hours.

Too young for another snout in the trough

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