Canberra Liberals Leader Elizabeth Lee describes 2021 as a difficult year to be Leader of the Opposition.
During lockdown, she not only had to advocate for Canberrans who “felt they were being left behind by the government”, but also work collaboratively with her colleagues in Labor and the Greens to ensure the health and safety of the community was paramount.
It was also a year of triumph, despite the circumstances. Ms Lee travelled to Glasgow to participate in COP26, and successfully introduced – and then passed – legislation to outlaw the practice of stealthing.
Region Media asked Ms Lee for her personal reflections on 2021.
The moment that defined the year: When the first case of COVID-19 in the ACT was announced and the ACT was plunged into lockdown on 12 August. It was a challenging moment as Leader of the Opposition because of the need to strike a delicate balance between supporting the health advice and working with the government, while also advocating for and supporting Canberrans who were feeling unheard and left behind as decisions were being made.
One lesson I learnt: To stress less about the things I cannot change or have no control over.
The highlight of the year: There are a few! Seeing the community come together to really support each other at the beginning of lockdown. So many Canberrans devoted their time, resources, and funds to support some of our most vulnerable with food hampers and other much-needed support.
Introducing stealthing legislation from Opposition was also a very important moment for me. I hope it shows former victims, and anyone who is victimised in the future, that the law is on their side.
A personal highlight was seeing my partner, Nathan, step up in his role with the Rural Fire Service to help out with pandemic management – he helped control huge lines at testing sites and also delivered food and medical supplies to vulnerable Canberrans required to isolate or quarantine.
The hardest moment: Managing the “politics” of the pandemic was difficult at times, especially when we had to respond to decisions that were made without any notice given to us in the Opposition.
Leadership lesson: Patience and keeping your cool will always pay off. It’s something I’ve always known but it was really brought home during the lockdown and pandemic this year.
Something I’m proud of: The way my team and I worked with the ACT Government to support the health advice to keep Canberrans safe during the pandemic.
At the same time, we were fierce advocates for those who did feel left behind or were impacted by decisions made during lockdown.
Throughout this year my team and I have spoken to thousands of Canberrans, we have listened and brought their issues to the Legislative Assembly, raising concerns about the rising cost of living, poverty, the plight of our businesses during the pandemic, and real concerns about some of our most vulnerable Canberrans.
What I wish I did differently: Been a little more present with my family during lockdown.
I know I was mentally and emotionally not there as much as I would have liked because I was so focused on the pandemic response. Although it’s hard to say if I really would have done things differently if I could.
I think that to a certain extent, I will never shake off the “mum guilt” which comes with the role that I am in.
My New Year’s Eve resolution: To remember that I cannot be all things to all people, and I must get better at looking after my own mental health so I can be the best elected representative, mum, partner that I can be.
What to expect from 2022: A better and brighter year for all Canberrans.
I hope all of our community – and indeed, the country – will be safe from the virus and that we, as a community, emerge stronger and more cohesive and resilient than ever before.