Push for Justice seat
After a series of unprovoked and violent murders rocked her town of Wangaratta, Tania Maxwell felt compelled to act.
Her quest to make a difference in her community started in March 2016, when she cofounded ‘Enough is Enough’, an anti-violence campaign which pushes for tougher sentencing for repeat violent sexual offenders, while also offering support to victims of heinous crimes.
Now, almost three years later, her journey for justice has led her onto the campaign trail.
Mrs Maxwell is standing for a Victorian Legislative Council seat at next month’s state election for Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, as a candidate for northern Victoria.
Mr Hinch had been a longtime supporter of her work which led to him asking Mrs Maxwell in February if she would like to officially join his Justice Party.
She has also been actively involved with the Coalition’s Victims of Crime Justice Reference Group.
Mrs Maxwell said her experiences had demonstrated there were significant failings in the legal system, which had only spurred her to fight harder in the justice space.
‘‘I would go and sit in a room with victims of violent crimes and listen to their stories and the one thing that was evident was how much these crimes, particularly murders, affect the victim’s families, yet how much is provided to the offender, while very little support is provided to the victims,’’ she said.
‘‘Putting community safety first and making that the number one priority in all decisions involving our justice system is the Justice Party’s biggest focus.’’
Last Tuesday, Mrs Maxwell visited Yarrawonga, then the following day spoke to local business owners in Cobram, a couple of which were recently burgled.
After speaking to people in the community to try and gain a sense of why crime was happened in small towns like Cobram, Mrs Maxwell believed the issue of drugs is a prevalent factor, but understands it is not the only one.
‘‘Every town I have visited recently has spoken of drug issues. I think it has become so widespread, which tells me that apart from early intervention, we also need rehabilitation spaces in small towns,’’ she said.
She also believes a culture of acceptance was filtering through northern Victorian communities, which is a major worry.
‘‘What frightens me is people are starting to expect these kind of incidents like break-ins as the norm,’’ Mrs Maxwell said.
‘‘How do we make change if people become accepting of crime? Where is the uproar to say this isn’t good enough?’’
She considers it was essential government moved away from dealing with crime at a crisis level, instead imploring leaders to delve into why crimes happen in the first place.
‘‘It’s not always drug related, we need to discover what is driving these crimes. Is it boredom, is it family dynamics?,’’ Mrs Maxwell said.
‘‘We continue to do the same thing but expect a different result. It’s a repetitive cycle that needs to be broken,’’ she said.
Having studied mental health and youth work, Mrs Maxwell said early early intervention was key in preventing crime from happening.
‘‘Having people incarcerated, we need to stop that. We need to be able to prevent that from happening in the first place,’’ she said.
‘‘Every town has crime, but we need to focus on the collective impact of crime because it has a domino effect on people.
‘‘With these crimes that have happened in this region recently, you have to wonder what it is driving those incidents.
‘‘And then the other end of that is if convicted and found guilty, what do the magistrates do — that’s an enormous focus of the Hinch Justice Party.’’
With the state election looming, Mrs Maxwell was getting excited, but knows there is much work to be done — by her party and others.
‘‘I’m looking forward to the election. But I truly believe we need more political parties specialising in particular fields in Parliament if we want to move forward as a country,’’ she said.
Election tilt: Tania Maxwell is standing for a Victorian Legislative Council seat, representing Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, as a candidate for northern Victoria. She was in Cobram last Wednesday speaking to people, including Orchid Cafe worker Allison Hewitt, about crime.