A NEW and energetic youth-driven metropolitan branch of the WA Nationals is aiming to expand the party’s constituency base beyond its traditional grassroots farming communities.
The newly formed UWA Nationals could also help bolster the party’s chances of getting former West Coast Eagles player David Wirrpanda elected to the Senate at the upcoming federal election.
The 33 year-old former AFL star heads-up the David Wirrpanda Foundation’s mentoring program for young Aboriginal people.
He’s been pre-selected for the WA National’s Senate ticket and his high profile, combined with support for the strong rural reforms achieved by the party’s Royalties for Regions program since the 2008 State election, are likely to attract Perth voters.
UWA Nationals president Lachlan Hunter said WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls and the party’s Central Wheatbelt representative Mia Davies are “huge” supporters of the party’s new metropolitan branch.
Ms Davies has been appointed inaugural patron of the UWA Nationals.
Mr Hunter is from a farming family at Bruce Rock and a first year UWA student who graduated from WA College of Agricultural Cunderdin.
He said his political views were strongly aligned with the WA Nationals but after arriving on the UWA campus this year, he was “astounded” to find that a branch of the party wasn’t already operating.
In a short space of time the UWA Nationals have already written a draft constitution, formed a committee and are planning to hold events launching the new branch.
Mr Hunter said the UWA Nationals would provide a strong platform to give a voice to those students who believed in building political support for people living outside of the cities, “rather than a total urban focus”.
“I believe this club allows people who move from rural Australia to Perth to see that there is a university student group willing to hear what they have to say and appreciates their input into making this country work for them, no matter where they were educated and live,” he said.
“I thought something had to be done about this.
“I asked several political personnel and also university academics if it would be an attractive idea and surprisingly it came with an overwhelming amount of support.”
Mr Hunter said UWA comprised a wide range of students from diverse and different cultures, including many regional students.
“I wanted their voice to be heard in the political arena,” he said.
“The UWA Student Guild was more than happy affiliating the UWA Nationals and letting the regional student demographic choose a political group on campus that speaks for them.”
Mr Hunter said the fledgling group already had about 40 signed-up members and many more students had expressed an interest in joining.
They’re also building a bigger profile through presence on social media with accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
“Once we have a few events and get the name of the UWA Nats out through social media and events then I am sure we will have many more members,” he said.
“We have a few events planned for next semester with a focus over the holidays to promote the club through social media.”
Mr Hunter said the planned events included talks and “meet and greets” with current Nationals parliamentarians, BBQ's and participating in the mock parliament event, held each semester.
The young political group is planning to host combined events with the UWA Young Liberals and UWA Politics Club.
“I hope we achieve recognition and support from students so they realise people out there have a similar voice and we can help work together to achieve common goals, be it political, social or personal,” he said.
“It allows people to branch out and meet people with common ideas.”
UWA Nationals' Twitter handle is @uwanationals and their facebook page is Facebook.com/uwanationals