By Colin MacGillivray
MEMBER for Yan Yean Danielle Green has reflected on nearly 20 years of service and turned an eye to the future after last week announcing she would not seek re-election in 2022.
Ms Green has represented Yan Yean as a member of Victoria’s Legislative Assembly since 2002 and said she was proud of many of the changes she had seen during her time as an MP.
“In Mernda and Doreen, when I was elected there were 1400 people on the electoral roll. Now it’s almost a city in its own right – it’s between 50,000 and 60,000 people,” she said.
“There were only two tiny schools when I was first elected. Now we’ve got the biggest single-campus school in the country in Hazel Glen College, we’ve got Laurimar Primary, Mernda Primary, Mernda Park, Mernda Central College and Ashley Park.
“It really has been a privilege to see the area grow.”
Ms Green said she felt the time was right to step down and allow new leaders a chance to represent the electorate.
“I think 20 years is a good, round number, and there are very few jobs you can commit 20 years to,” she said.
“I entered in my 30s and I’m leaving in my 50s, which means I’ve still got time to do other things and provide better care and support to my husband with his ongoing health issues.
“My mum is 81 years old and I want to spend some quality time with her. I don’t want to look back and think that I lost my mum and didn’t spend enough time with her because I was too busy working.
“Very few people in politics go out at a time of their choosing. Working from home gave us all a lot of thinking time, and it was the right time for me.”
The proliferation of schools to cater to the northern metropolitan region’s growing population is an achievement Ms Green looks back on proudly, as is the growth of sporting clubs in the region.
As parliamentary secretary for sport and regional Victoria, Ms Green said she was able to pursue some of her passions.
“The best days of my political career have been on day one when a new school is opened and to stand in the gate and see the happiest kids, parents and staff. You’ll never see a happier group of people than on the day a new school opens,” she said.
“In new communities, it’s like the school and the sporting club are the social glue. They’re where friendships are begun and nurtured, and where kids learn to cooperate with each other and develop leadership skills.”
Ms Green said she had also been passionate about expanding public transport in the region, with 20 new bus routes installed during her time as an MP and the former Epping railway line extended first to South Morang and then Mernda.
Road and health infrastructure upgrades were also among her achievements, with four community hospitals planned to be completed after she leaves office.
Ms Green said she had faced plenty of challenges during her time as an MP, but listed the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires as her greatest.
Ms Green served as a CFA volunteer during the 2009 fires, and said she pushed for mental health support for survivors in the aftermath.
“I went to 27 funerals after Black Saturday. I lost friends, friends lost children, a lot of people lost homes,” she said.
“I had shocking PTSD and didn’t sleep for months. It was horrendous, and I think my health really suffered. I wanted to make sure those communities were never forgotten.”
Ms Green said being an MP was a career path she never dreamed of as a child, but hoped she had helped inspire a new generation of girls and women to consider a career in politics.
“You can’t be what you can’t see, and there weren’t many women in parliament,” she said.
“There have still only been 98 women ever in the Legislative Assembly and the majority of them are still alive, which shows how recent it is.
“The first time I ever voted at 18 was the first time Victoria had a female minister. Since I was elected in 2002, the huge majority of state MPs in the north have been women – that has been a change in my adult lifetime.
“It means little girls and little boys will think it’s nothing unusual for either a woman or a man to be an MP.”
Ms Green said she was undecided about what career she would pursue after politics, but said she would continue to volunteer and champion causes such as disability access and disaster response.
She said she would leave politics with no regrets.
“To exercise power for the community good to deliver infrastructure and services that make people’s lives easier – there’s no better job than that,” she said.
“It’s not easy; you have to fight your guts out, and sometimes the community don’t understand that.
“I think most ministers would think I’ve been pretty annoying, but by being annoying I’ve been able to get most of what I set out to do accomplished.
“I’m like [Oliver Twist] – I always say ‘please sir, can I have some more?’”